British police have detained 12 terror suspects over suspicions that they were planning a "large-scale, pre-planned, intelligence-led" operation. The BBC reports that unarmed police raids nabbed seven suspects from Stoke-on-Trent and London in England, as well as five from Cardiff in Wales. The incident also highlighted fears of more attacks in Britain, following revelations that Sweden's first suicide bomber was radicalized in the English town of Luton, as well as other recent terror events which promoted the UK to increase its terror rating to "severe."
All of the suspects, between the ages of 17 and 28, "were arrested at or near their home addresses, with the exception of one suspect from Stoke who was at a domestic property in Birmingham," according to a statement by West Midlands Police. "Searches are now being conducted at the home addresses, plus the address in Birmingham and another residence in London."
Although police sources noted that no firearms or explosives have yet been recovered from the search sites, the British police said that "today's arrests were absolutely necessary in order to keep the public safe." Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Jon Yates, the British national lead for counter-terrorism policing, also warned the public that it was "absolutely vital" that remain vigilant and contact police if they saw anything suspicious.
"The suspects are believed to have been involved in a plot against targets in the UK," BBC's Danny Shaw said." This is not believed to have been a potential plot of a Mumbai-style attack, but a plot involving explosives or bombs." The Guardian noted that potential targets including Whitehall, a London road lined with government departments and ministries, as well as Christmas shoppers and "revelers" in the West Midlands.
The plot comes on the heels of several terror attempts and plots in Britain over the last few years. The last terror arrests occurred in April of 2009. However, on December 11th, Swedish suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, blew up himself among Christmas shoppers after being radicalized while living in Luton. In 2008, Muslim convert Nicky Reilly, aka Mohamed Abdulaziz Rashid Saeed-Alim, attempted a failed suicide bombing at a British restaurant in Exeter. And in 2007, Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed tried to ram a Jeep Cherokee full of propane canisters into the entrance of an airport terminal in Glasgow, Scotland.
It also followed warnings of increased al-Qaida activity, especially in Britain. In November, Germany reported "concrete indications" of al-Qaida attacks in Europe and America during the holiday season. In October, the French foreign ministry warned of a "very likely" terror attack occurring in Britain, while the State Department issued its own warning against European travel in the same month. Jihadist websites have also been abuzz with talk of striking Christians in the Middle East and sending the West "Christmas presents" of explosives.
More about the Christmas plots can be read here. Information about the Swedish suicide bomber and steps of his radicalization can be read here.