Al Qaeda was behind 'plot' to behead soldier
London Daily Mail | February 1, 2007
STEPHEN WRIGHT and BEN TAYLOR
A foiled plot to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier was orchestrated by Al Qaeda, police sources have said.
Officers suspect the mastermind behind the appalling attempt to bring the horrors of Baghdad to the streets of Britain is a senior Al Qaeda terrorist with close links to Osama Bin Laden.
The alleged plan was to abduct a Muslim soldier, mirroring the murders of British hostages Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan.
The victim would have been made to plead for his life to Tony Blair, denounce the war and ultimately be executed - all on film.
In a move which would have caused unprecedented terror and revulsion, images of his death would have been posted on the Internet, security sources said.
The alleged plot follows an appeal by extreme Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed last summer for fanatics to kidnap a British soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan - branding all Muslims who serve with the coalition troops as "non-believers".
A senior security source said: "The plot involved a ruthless gang who regard British Muslim soldiers who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan as traitors for killing fellow Muslims.
If they had not found a suitable Muslim soldier to kill, it is quite possible they would have plucked an innocent member of the public off the streets and beheaded him.
"They wanted to scare British Muslims into leaving the military and also send a message of revenge to Downing Street for sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan."
Other targets could have been civil servants or anyone seen to be collaborating with the Government.
It has emerged that the Ministry of Defence has identified one individual soldier as the most likely potential victim.
The man, understood to be a regular soldier rather than a reservist, was said to be in a safe location.
Security sources said that at least one other British Muslim - on a hit-list of 25 potential targets - had also been identified as being in "imminent danger". He, too, was being kept safe.
It is understood that a tip-off from a trusted informant last summer sparked the dramatic events in Birmingham when nine men suspected of being members of the terror cell were arrested in a series of raids across the city.
During a six-month, £10million surveillance operation involving 250 police officers and MI5, cameras, telephone taps and surveillance teams had been used to monitor the group's movements.
Officers had hoped to keep the men under surveillance for a further two months to gather further intelligence but sources said the operation was brought forward following "clear indications" that the gang were making final preparations to enact their murderous plan.
One said: "Police had no choice but to carry out the arrests."
Eight men were arrested in raids at 4am while a ninth was held on a motorway in the afternoon.
Those arrested included businessmen, a teacher and a father-of-four on benefits. All are British of Pakistani descent.
The nine men were arrested on suspicion of the 'commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism' under the Terrorism Act.
The scale of the operation, which involved hundreds of officers, prompted a protest from some local Muslims, who accused police of over-the-top tactics.
West Midlands Police said 12 addresses had been sealed off in the Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston areas of Birmingham.
They included an Islamic bookshop which was co-founded almost a decade ago by Moazzam Begg, who was captured and imprisoned in the Guatanamo Bay camp in Cuba before his controversial return in 2005.
Police also searched a grocery store run by a respected Asian businessman.
One arrested man was named locally as 29-year-old Amjad Mahmood.
His brother Zair said: "The police won't let me know where he is. His wife and kids are very distressed. My mother and father are very distressed."
Local councillor Ansar Ali Khan said he had spoken to the father of the arrested man who, he said, was "in shock to know that his son had been arrested".
He described him as "a very hard-working businessman", adding: "He has served the community for 30 years and he is proud to be British. He cannot imagine his son having any link to this sort of activity."
The brother of Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, 24, the first British Muslim soldier to be killed on active duty in Afghanistan, spoke of his fears that his hero brother may have unwittingly inspired the plot.
Corporal Hashmi was labelled a "traitor to Islam and professional terrorist" in a vicious internet hate campaign following his death.
His brother Zeeshan Hashmi, 27, himself a former soldier who is now studying Arabic at Cambridge University, said: "It would have been a horrendous crime had it taken place. My brother would have felt exactly the same."
The plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier is further evidence that fanatics in Pakistan are actively planning atrocities in Britain, sources said.
The London bombings on July 7 2005 and last summer's alleged airline terror plot were both masterminded in Pakistan, investigators believe.
It is believed anti-terrorist officers are liaising with their counterparts in Pakistan in the hunt for the mastermind of the Birmingham plot.
There have been claims that the raids had been exploited by the Government following days of damaging stories about fundraiser Lord Levy, casinos and turmoil in the Home Office.
A source at West Midlands Police said: "There is widespread fury that Whitehall officials have been briefing sensitive details of this operation.
"This terror raid has come at a very convenient time for the Government as it has taken a number of embarrassing stories off the news agenda.
"But it must be stressed that the timing of the operation was an independent police decision."
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