Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Iraq have instructed Islamic terror cells in Britain to carry out a series of kidnappings and beheadings like the ones allegedly planned by the nine terror suspects arrested in Birmingham last week, security sources here said.
The "strategic" assassination instruction was issued by Al-Qaeda to dozens of their followers in this country, the sources were quoted as saying by The Sunday Times.
The plot was uncovered by the British intelligence agency Mi5 last autumn.
As a result police are on standby for multiple attempts by terrorists to kidnap and then behead people across Britain. Mi5 is conducting a counter-terrorism surveillance operation to prevent such an attack.
A government official said Mi5 was now monitoring about 280 terror suspects. Each was suspected of serious intent to carry out an attack. Cells are being closely observed in at least four British towns and cities.
The alleged attempt to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier or soldiers in Birmingham was just the first of a series of planned attacks, the report said.
The revelation explains the recent deployment of a permanent SAS unit (counter-terrorist unit) to London. The unit has been placed on a 24-hour standby to respond to a terrorist attack in the capital. It would aim to carry out a hostage rescue mission within minutes of being alerted.
Muslim police officers serving in London may be given extra protection. The Association of Muslim Police is in talks with the Met, which is expected to carry out a risk assessment of the dangers.