Commandos in the British Special Air Service have been going deep behind enemy lines to kidnap Iraqi soldiers so allied intelligence officials can interrogate them, according to a British intelligence officer.

The officer said in an interview Monday that the secret operation recently netted at least "30 top secret documents detailing fire plans (showing how Iraqis intend to use their weapons) and logistic capabilities" - exactly the kind of intelligence sought by allied forces prior to a ground assault.While the British have been conducting the kidnapping operation, two U.S. military sources said Monday that reconnaissance units of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions went deep into Iraq Sunday to scout possible invasion routes. At least 27 Iraqi soldiers were taken prisoner by the 82nd unit during the operation, the sources said.

The British operation is in response to requests for detailed information from military intelligence units.

"We've been giving SAS a nice little . . . `shopping list' of the kinds of people we want, and three days later they come back with the one we wanted," said the British intelligence officer, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.

"If we say we want an artilleryman, they come back with an artilleryman," he said. "They just go in an snatch 'em out - a man who knows mine fields or an engineer, whatever. It's been highly successful. We just had an operation where the SAS went in, brought one guy out after killing all of his companions."

During the 1982 Falklands war the SAS landed squads next to Argentine positions, sending back information on positions, troop capabilities and targets for the British Navy.

Last month, a London newspaper reported that an SAS squad had gone behind Iraqi lines and captured an enemy missile, bringing it back for analysis.