The UK government has this afternoon raised the UK terror threat level from substantial to severe. The official threat level informs security professionals across the public and private sectors, such as Kingdom, as they make decisions about the appropriate level of protection in place across the UK.
This is the second highest of five possible threat levels to the UK, meaning that an attack is highly likely. The last time the threat level was this high was between early 2010 and summer 2011. The only threat level higher than the now current one is critical, which means that an attack is expected imminently. This has only happened twice before, in August 2006 and June 2007.
The level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and the Security Service (MI5) and the system has been in place since 2006. Threat levels can change at any time as different information becomes available to security agents, and do not have an expiry date.
The change in the UK’s terror threat level is in response to the ongoing conflicts in both Syria and Iraq, according to the Home Secretary Theresa May. Commenting on the change, Mrs May said there was no intelligence to suggest that an attack was imminent, but that terrorist groups in these two countries are planning attacks against the West. She added that “the first and most important duty of government is the protection of the British people ... the British public should be in no doubt that we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security”. She urged members of the public to remain vigilant and to look out for any potential signs of terrorist activity, such as suspicious bags on public transport
Speaking at a news conference in Number 10 Downing Street afterwards, the Prime Minister David Cameron said that at least 500 people had travelled from the UK to fight in Syria and potentially Iraq, and blame the extremist group Islamic State, often referred to as IS, who he says represent “a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before”.
Mr Cameron added that new laws will be brought in to make it easier to take passports away from people travelling to the Middle East to take part in the conflicts, as efforts continue to identify the British man who killed the American journalist James Foley recently. He did not provide details on what had caused the threat level to change, but said that Britain must combine a “firm security response” with an intelligent political one, and said that people “should continue to go about our lives in the normal way”.
The National Policing Lead for Counter-Terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, has added that security and protection measures are being increased from today, and that some people might see some changes in terms of policing and the number of armed police. More details are expected to be announced on Monday.