12 arrested in UK for large-scale terrorist plot

British authorities rounded up a dozen suspects in a conspiracy to launch multiple-point attacks around the UK.  According to authorities in the UK, the plot was in its “early stages,” but apparently advanced enough to have conspirators established in three different cities:

British police on Monday arrested a dozen men suspected of plotting a large-scale terror attack — the biggest anti-terrorist sweep since April 2009, when 12 men were detained over an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot in the northern city of Manchester.

Police who swooped in on the men’s houses early in the morning were unarmed, suggesting any planned attack was not imminent.

The men were arrested in London, the Welsh city of Cardiff and the English cities of Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.

The plot was directed at targets inside the United Kingdom butcounterterrorism officials declined to give more details.

The UK says that this plot was not connected to rumors of Christmas Day plots by al-Qaeda across Europe and into the US.  However, ABC News connects the dots a little more explicitly this morning:

There’s good news and bad news in this report. Terrorists have apparently struggled to find explosive materials, which is a sign that our efforts to curtail accessibility to the raw materials of terrorism have worked. Instead, the terrorists are now looking to use cars as guided missiles in the same manner that the 9/11 hijackers used commercial jets.

However, that’s also not entirely bad news. After the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, most commercial buildings installed barriers to their entrances to prevent a repeat here at home.  Such an attack could still cause considerable damage — the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 used a truck filled with explosives parked outside, not rammed into a building — but the scale would be easier to handle, if more difficult to detect.  That’s roughly the same idea behind the aborted Times Square bombing attempt, where a parked SUV contained enough explosive to kill several hundred people in a densely-occupied area.

The UK says they’ve never been busier in their counterterrorist operations.  Hopefully that just means that they’re getting better at identifying and thwarting terrorists.