- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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

The kidnapping plot was the first of its kind to be uncovered in Britain, said counterterrorism officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Police would not confirm the occupation of the intended victim or details of the plot, which was unraveled in the predominantly Pakistani neighborhood in central England. A dozen houses and two Islamic bookshops were cordoned off and searched.

Counterterrorism units have conducted several raids across Britain since July 7, 2005, when 52 persons in London were killed in suicide bombings carried out by Muslim extremists who grew up in Britain. Several sweeps have been conducted in Birmingham. In August, suspects there were arrested in a major plot to use liquid explosives to blow up at least 10 planes between the United States and Britain.

The intended victim of the latest plot, a British Muslim soldier, was under police protection, Sky News reported, saying the kidnapping was to end in an “Iraq-style” execution. The British Broadcasting Corp. also reported that the plan was to kidnap a soldier.

“The threat of terrorism has been growing over the years,” said David Shaw, a police spokesman in Birmingham. The operation took months.

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

Last year, a London street vendor was sentenced to six years in prison in a plot to kill a decorated British soldier. Abu Baker Mansha was accused of targeting Cpl. Mark Byles, whose address and other materials were found in Mansha’s apartment.

Cpl. Byles was awarded a military cross for bravery after an attack in which several Iraqi insurgents were killed, and his exploits were covered by British newspapers. One of the articles with Cpl. Byles’ name was circled and found in Mansha’s apartment.

The Defense Ministry said 330 Muslims are serving in the British armed forces. It would not comment on reports that the intended victim was a soldier.

Dozens of people have been kidnapped in Iraq, and captors often have broadcast their pictures on the Internet.

One widely publicized kidnap-slaying was that of Kenneth Bigley, 62, from Liverpool. He was abducted from a Baghdad suburb, where he was working in September 2004, and beheaded three weeks later. His death was captured on video.

“People don’t trust their own children anymore,” said Shabir Hussain, chairman of the 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?’”

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