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British counterterrorism police arrested nine men in an alleged kidnapping plot Wednesday - a plan that involved torturing and beheading a British Muslim soldier and broadcasting the act on the Internet, according to news reports.
A ninth person was arrested just before police briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon. The first group of arrests took place in the morning. "The threat of terrorism has been growing over the years," David Shaw, of the West Midlands Police, said in announcing the arrest.
Counterterrorism officials - speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation - said the plot was the first of its kind to be uncovered in Britain.
The potential victim was in police custody, Sky reported, saying the kidnapping was going to be an "Iraq-style" execution.
Birmingham has been the site of several major terror raids in the past two years, including a plot uncovered in the summer that involved several suspects planning to use liquid explosives to blow up as many as 10 flights between Britain and the United States.
It is also the hometown of Britain's first Muslim soldier to be killed in Afghanistan last year - a death prompting militant Islamist Web sites to denounce Cpl. Jabron Hashmi, 24, as a traitor. One site - that of extremist British sect al-Ghurabaa - posted an image of the soldier surrounded by flames.
Dozens have been kidnapped in Iraq, where captors have often broadcast pictures on the Internet.
One of the highest-profile kidnappings and murders was that of 62-year-old Kenneth Bigley from Liverpool, England. He was kidnapped from a Baghdad suburb where he was working in September 2004 and beheaded three weeks later, with his death captured on video.
Police were searching 12 homes in the predominantly Pakistani neighborhood in the central England city. Two Islamic book stores were also cordoned off.
The men arrested were accused of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism, police said.
Since suicide bombers killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005 _ killings perpetrated by Muslim extremists who grew up in Britain _ counterterrorism units have conducted several raids across the country. One man was shot in one of the raids in the London last year although he was never charged _ sparking complaints among Muslims who said they were being targeted.
"People don't trust their own children any more," 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?'
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