British police have arrested nine men in dawn swoops in and around Birmingham in what is being called the first phase of a nationwide anti-terrorist operation. A number of homes and businesses, including an internet cafe and an Islamic bookshop, were raided and sealed off. 12 addresses in all in the UK’s second largest city were targeted.
A defence ministry source says the operation was designed to prevent a possible abduction and murder of a British muslim soldier. Assistant police chief constable David Shaw said: “The search operation of all the premises continues and will take, in some cases, several days to complete. Can I just say that we understand this does cause some disruption to people living in the area. We do understand that and we’ll do everything to minimise it.”
Birmingham has one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Britain, with a strong Pakistani presence. Defence experts have commented that Britain is especially vulnerable to al-Qaeda style attacks because of historic links to Pakistan, and that the risk of attack is greater than elsewhere in Europe. However, residents gathered in the Sparkhill, Smallheath and Alum Rock areas complained the police were victimising their community, with arrests almost daily.