British police arrested 12 men early Monday morning who were allegedly in the final stages of a major bomb plot.
The plot, possibly Al Qaeda inspired, was allegedly directed at locations inside the U.K. The men were arrested after weeks of surveillance by law enforcement and MI5 in raids in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent. The men are between 17 and 28 years old and are mostly British citizens from Bangladeshi backgrounds.
"The arrests were absolutely necessary to keep the public safe," said John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Britain's senior counterterrorism police officer. He also reminded people to remain vigilant due to a large number of terror threats that officials are currently monitoring.
Authorities did not say the plot was timed for the holidays, but they did feel it was necessary to act right away, an indication this plot was in its final stages.
The U.K. is at its second-highest level of terror alert, "severe," which means an attack is believed to be likely, and last week U.S. authorities sent a message to local law enforcement nationwide warning of possible attacks during the Christmas season because of their "psychological impact."
Earlier this year, the U.S. State department issued a travel alert for Europe because of a heightened concern about terror. A captured German jihadi had reportedly provided details of an alleged Mumbai-style small arms attack on civilians. Terrorists killed almost 200 people in a multi-day assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.
Largest Anti-Terror Sweep in U.K. Since 2009
Authorities said Monday's arrests were not linked to a Mumbai-style plot, and that there were no links to the Swedish backpack bombing earlier this month, in which a British resident killed himself and wounded bystanders in central Stockholm. There was also no link to alleged reports from captured Iraqis that attacks were coming during the holiday season.
The arrests were the biggest anti-terror action in Britain since April 2009, when another dozen men were detained in Manchester in connection with an alleged Al Qaeda bomb plot.
Islamist terrorists killed almost 200 people with multiple train bombings in Madrid in 2004, and killed 52 in London in 2005.