U.S. issues no new warnings despite Britain terror arrests
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Security experts and U.S. military officials in the United Kingdom say they are still assessing the impact of an alleged terrorist plot to kidnap and execute a British soldier in Birmingham.
A day after police raided a dozen addresses and arrested nine people in the city — about 125 miles from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall — Air Force officials said local units had issued no orders or warnings to U.K.-based airmen specifically related to the arrests.
“Any new measures we’ll be taking … I’m not sure there’s anything tied directly to this,” said Maj. John Haynes.
The alleged plan was to kidnap a Muslim member of the British Army and execute him on video in the style of some executions of Westerners in Iraq, according to local and national media reports. Details of the alleged plot have been scant because intelligence and law enforcement officials have been mainly mum on the arrests.
The Air Force already has standing general guidelines advising airmen how to keep safe from potential acts of terrorism in overseas locations, including ways to avoid standing out as an American or becoming an obvious target.
“It’s definitely a threat we’ve been preparing for,” Haynes said.
The tactic allegedly planned in the U.K., however, represented a new, more focused strategy for terrorism in England, which in 2005 saw coordinated bombing attacks on the London mass transit system.
“The scenario we saw up there is obviously very unique and kind of unexpected as well,” Haynes said.
A spokeswoman from the Home Office, which handles press inquiries for MI-5, the British security agency, said the government was issuing no official comment on the case.
If the allegations prove to be true, the plan appears to be a first attempt at a new tactic for extremists in the U.K., said Paul Beaver, an independent security analyst based in London.
“It’s a change of pattern,” Beaver said. Instead of terrorist cells attempting to inflict mass casualties, the Birmingham group appears to have been planning a focused operation to send a specific message to Muslims in England: Support the military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, “and you will be eradicated,” Beaver said.
There are 693 self-reported Muslims in the U.S. Air Force, according to the Air Force Personnel Office. But the threat also applies to any person in uniform, including Americans, and not just those who have served downrange, Beaver said.
“I don’t think that these guys are sophisticated enough to figure out who’s been where,” he said.