POLICE are still questioning nine men held over an alleged terrorist plot to carry out an Iraqi-style kidnapping of a British Muslim soldier.
Eight were arrested in dawn raids in Birmingham yesterday morning, with the ninth held in the afternoon on a motorway in the city.
Specialist forensic officers spent the night searching the eight houses in the Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston areas of Birmingham.
Four commercial premises have also been sealed off.
All nine men were arrested under the Terrorism Act - meaning police have a maximum of 28 days to hold them. They are being held at police stations in the West Midlands.
Sources said the alleged plot was to abduct a serving Muslim soldier, who would have been filmed, possibly tortured and ultimately executed.
It could have mirrored the kidnappings of British hostages Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan in Iraq.
Sources said a target for the alleged plot had already been identified, a young Muslim in the Army who had served in Afghanistan.
A police spokesman said the case was a "very, very major investigation" which would take "days if not weeks".
"The threat from terrorism remains very real," he added. He said the raids marked the "culmination of many months of activity".
Sources said a surveillance operation by anti-terror officers had been going on for six months.
The nine were arrested on suspicion of the "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism" under the Terrorism Act 2000.
The kidnap plot was said to have been in the later stages of planning.
Police refused to confirm that the alleged target was in protective custody.
One of the nine men held was named locally as 29-year-old Amjad Mahmood.
His brother, who did not want to be named, 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 the father of the arrested man was in shock.
He said the father was a hard-working businessman who had served the community for 30 years and was proud to be British, adding: "He cannot imagine his son having any link to this sort of activity."