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British Anti-Terror Police Question 9 Men

British police have arrested nine men in pre-dawn raids in the city of Birmingham. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from London the suspects are being questioned by anti-terrorist branch officers.

Dozens of police were involved in the arrest operation and at least a dozen premises are being searched in the greater Birmingham area in central England.

On the record, authorities are not saying much about the alleged plot. But information from sources said to be close to the investigation has been leaked to many British media outlets.

Those unnamed sources say the individuals were allegedly involved in a plan to kidnap and possibly murder a serving member of the British armed forces while that person was on home leave.

Britain's top law and order official, Home Secretary John Reid, told Sky News that few specifics would be released at this early stage of the operation.

"These is a major operation and investigation under way and I would ask everyone concerned, and the media and the press, while I fully recognize the interest in this, that everyone exercise a great degree of responsibility and constraint and make sure that we minimize speculation," he said. "We minimize any irresponsible information in the public domain because above all we have to recognize that there is not only an operation and investigation, but there could well be future court proceeding."

What is known is that counter-terrorism officers had been watching the men for months.

Security expert Paul Wilkinson from St. Andrews University says if there is evidence of a kidnapping plot, such a shift in tactics would further complicate the job of Britain's counter-terrorism officers.

"I think it is a reminder to us all that the level of threat is very high," he noted. "It is also I think a reminder that we need to be constantly aware that the al-Qaida and its various affiliates are constantly looking for new tactics, new vulnerabilities."

Under new laws, the suspects can be held for up to 28 days before being either charged or released.

Last November, the head of Britain's domestic intelligence service warned that up to 30 terror plots were being worked on and that agents were monitoring about 1,600 individuals around the country.

Meanwhile in Germany, a district court has issued arrest warrants for 13 people believed to be involved in the abduction of a German man of Lebanese descent, who says he was kidnapped by the CIA. Prosecutors say the suspects listed in the arrest warrant could be so-called "cover identities" of CIA agents. U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the report.

German authorities say they believe the account of the man who says he was arrested in Macedonia in 2003, handed over to the CIA and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held until May of 2004. The case has fueled debate across Europe about the secret transfer of terror suspects by the CIA.