British Police Arrest Men for Plotting Terrorist Act

Police in the British city of Birmingham have arrested nine people accused of planning a terrorist act. Media reports say they planned to kidnap and possibly kill a British Muslim soldier and post video of their actions on the Internet. The arrests were concentrated in an area of Birmingham that has a large Muslim population.

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Police in the British city of Birmingham have arrested nine men on suspicion of planning acts of terrorism. The police have refused to give details of the case, but media reports say the group is accused of planning to kidnap and murder a British soldier.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD: Britain woke up to the news of another pre-dawn raid today on another largely Pakistani immigrant community, this time in Britain's second largest city of Birmingham. Police said simply that nine men had been arrested, but did not say what for. Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police David Shaw told the news conference it was the culmination of many months of activity by his officers and people from a number from a number of other agencies.

Mr. DAVID SHAW (West Midlands Police): We are literally right at the foothills of what is very, very major investigation for us. And we are proceeding very slowly, understandably, but very carefully to assure we build the best possible case. And insure that while prosecutions are appropriate, we've got all the evidence that's necessary.

GIFFORD: Though police would give no details of what the men are suspected of plotting, news media quoted police sources saying they've been arrested for planning to kidnap a British Muslim soldier. The man is said to have served in Afghanistan, but is currently home on home leave. And British media are reporting the men arrested were possibly planning to execute the soldier on film and put the video on the Internet. Assistant Chief Constable Shaw called some of today's media reporting unhelpful.

There are large Pakistani immigrant communities in Birmingham, and today's arrests have caused some resentment among local Muslims. Mohammed Barba(ph) says he's the cousin of one of the men arrested.

Mr. MOHAMMED BARBA: Well, what the hell they're doing? There had been other crimes going on around here. Why don't they chase those people instead these sort of crimes, when there's no crime here? We can vouch for him. He's innocent. Do you understand? There's no way this kid can be in any terrorism act. No way. I can vouch for him. I'll put my ass. I'll guarantee for him if I have to.

GIFFORD: Police are very much aware of the sensitivities of dealing with the Muslim communities in Britain, many of whom feel victimized by increased police attention since the July 7th bombings in London a year and a half ago. Raids were carried out in August, when police say they foiled a plot to blow up airliners flying from London to the United States. And in another raid on a house in London last year, a Muslim man was shot and injured by police. The man turned out to be completely innocent, further inflaming relations between the two sides.

Roger Godsiff is a Labour Party Member of Parliament representing Birmingham.

Mr. ROGER GODSIFF (Parliament member): I think the overwhelming majority of people in the local communities are supportive of the police. They realize they've got a very difficult job to do, and they also that the police are there to protect each and every one of us irrespective of race or religion.

GIFFORD: It may be some time before any details of the alleged crimes emerged from the authorities. Meanwhile, whether they like it or not, Britain's 1.8 million-strong Muslim community is once again the focus of public attention.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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