Kidnap 'plot'
 
Al Jazeera's correspondent in London, Alan Fisher, said parallels have been drawn with kidnapping plots in Baghdad, but added "there's no suggestion [from police] that this plot went further at the moment then a kidnap".

 

Police searched 12 homes in the predominantly-Pakistani neighbourhood in the central England city.

 

Two Islamic book stores were also cordoned off.

 

The men were arrested on "suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".

 

'Major investigation'

 

David Shaw, assistant chief constable of West Midlands police, said: "This remains a dynamic, fluid operation and it is by no means finished. We are literally right at the foothills of what is a very, very major investigation for us."

 

Britain remains on its second-highest threat level of "severe" which indicates that security services believe a terrorist attack is highly likely.

 

Shane Brighton, a terrorism expert at London think-tank Chatham House, said: "It certainly seems to confirm Britain is particularly vulnerable to al Qaeda-style attacks because of the historic links to Pakistan and the Pakistani community here."

 
Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, said in Islamabad: "The British authorities have confirmed to us that there is no Pakistan connection."

Britain's Home Office said: "This operation is a reminder of the real and serious nature of the terrorist threat we face."
 
Beheading reports

 

News reports, citing unnamed sources, say the suspected conspirators planned an "Iraq-style" execution.

 

Sky News reported the group intended to behead the soldier and broadcast the killing on the Internet.

 
The alleged target had been taken into protective custody, Sky News said.
 
Police would not comment on the media reports.
 
Birmingham has been the site of several recent "anti-terrorism" operations.

 

Raids in the summer led to allegations that several suspects from Birmingham, London and other British cities, planned to use liquid explosives to blow up up to 10 trans-Atlantic flights.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies