- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

2:14 p.m.

BIRMINGHAM, England — Counterterrorism police arrested nine men in a suspected kidnapping plot today — a plan that reportedly involved torturing and beheading a British Muslim soldier and broadcasting the killing on the Internet.

Eight persons were arrested in pre-dawn raids in Birmingham, and the ninth person was arrested just before police briefed reporters.

Police said the kidnapping plot was the first of its kind to be uncovered in Britain.

The potential victim was in protective police custody, Sky News television channel reported, saying the kidnapping was going to be an “Iraq-style” execution.

Birmingham has been the site of several recent terrorism sweeps, including summer raids that revealed a purported plot by several British suspects to use liquid explosives to blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights.

It also is the hometown of Britain’s first Muslim soldier to be killed in Afghanistan last year — a death that prompted militant Islamist Web sites to denounce Cpl. Jabron Hashmi, 24, as a traitor. One site — that of the extremist British sect al-Ghurabaa — posted an image of the soldier surrounded by flames.

There are 330 Muslim personnel serving in the British armed forces, according to the Defense Ministry, which would not comment on reports that the intended victim was a Muslim soldier.

Police were searching 12 homes in the predominantly Pakistani neighborhood in the central England. Two Islamic bookstores also were cordoned off.

The men arrested were accused of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism, police said.

Since suicide bombers killed 52 persons in London on July 7, 2005 — attacks perpetrated by Muslim extremists who grew up in Britain — counterterrorism units have conducted several raids across the country.

“People don’t trust their own children anymore,” said Shabir Hussain, chairman of the nearby Ludlow Road Mosque in Birmingham. “You feel like you should challenge your son or daughter: ‘Where are you going at night? What are you watching on TV? What are you doing on the internet?’”

An opinion poll published Monday by the conservative think tank the Policy Exchange found that 37 percent of British Muslims ages 16 to 24 would prefer Shariah law based on the Koran and that 13 percent of that age group expressed admiration for groups such as al Qaeda that “are prepared to fight the West.”

“In terms of the threat, this type of plot would be less of a threat than a bombing, but from a propaganda view, kidnapping provides you with extended media coverage,” said former U.S. intelligence officer Bob Ayers, a security analyst based in London.

Dozens of non-Iraqis have been kidnapped in Iraq, where captors often have broadcast video on the Internet.

One of the highest-profile kidnappings and murders was that of 62-year-old Kenneth Bigley from Liverpool. He was kidnapped from a Baghdad suburb in September 2004 and beheaded three weeks later. His death captured on video.

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