London: Helicopters have been readied to fly crack British special forces commandos at a moment`s notice to tackle any Christmas terror strike as "the government is taking the threat of a `Mumbai` on a busy British shopping street extremely seriously".
Chinooks and Pumas were set to fly out of the elite SAS unit`s Hereford headquarters when fears of a Mumbai-style attack in Britain first emerged, The Sun reported Wednesday.
A "substantial" number of SAS commandos have been put on round-the-clock standby - set to go at a moment`s notice. All other duties and exercises have been cancelled.
In fact, SAS force members have been even banned from any liqour over the festive period.
The alert is a telling proof of how seriously anti-terror commanders are taking the threat of a "spectacular" attack.
Senior military sources confirmed the standby orders given to the special forces commandos.
A ministry of defence spokesman said: "We do not comment on special forces operations."
The media report did not mention exact size of the force or how many helicopters are involved.
The massive Chinooks, which have the capacity to carry up to 40 fully armed troops, are usually based at RAF Odiham, Hants. The comparatively smaller Pumas that can carry 16 troops are from RAF Benson, Oxfordshire.
"We haven`t had this many troopers on immediate standby for a UK operation since the 1990s when the IRA were still active.
"The government is taking the threat of a `Mumbai` on a busy British shopping street extremely seriously," an SAS source was quoted as saying.
The official terror threat level is "severe", meaning an attack is likely.
The Sun said last week that some SAS troops had shifted from their headquarter to be closer to major urban areas.
The terror alert was sounded last month when foreign intelligence agencies found out an Islamic plot to launch raids on European cities to rival the 2008 Mumbai mayhem.
Ten terrorists from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai and went on a killing spree over three days Nov 26-28, 2008, leaving 166 people dead.