After Europe attacks, UK raises terror threat level to severe

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Britain has raised its terror threat level to severe, its second-highest level, following recent attacks in Austria and France.

The threat level of severe is defined as an attack is considered highly likely. The level had previously been at substantial, meaning an attack is likely.


Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted on Tuesday that that the decision was a “precautionary measure and is not based on any specific threat.’’

She says “the public should continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Monday evening’s attack in Vienna left four people dead and came on the eve of a month-long coronavirus lockdown across Austria. England enters a four-week shutdown on Thursday.

Read more: Vienna attack: Austria police detain 14, reveal new details on ‘lone gunman’

Police in the Austrian capital said the attack was carried out by a known extremist who had spent time in prison.

Three people were killed in a knife rampage in the southern French city of Nice last week in an attack the government has described as an act of “Islamist terror.”

It followed the shock beheading by a suspected extremist of a teacher who showed a class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

The UK decision was made by the Joint Terrorism Analysis center (JTAC), which conducts a formal review of the threat level every six months, independent of government ministers.

A Police vehicle is parked by the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020. (AFP)
A Police vehicle is parked by the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020. (AFP)

JTAC’s membership includes the security services MI5 and its overseas counterpart MI6, and police, and assesses all intelligence relating to terrorism at home and abroad.

The level was briefly raised on two occasions to “critical,” the maximum level indicating an attack is “highly likely in the near future,” in May and September 2017.

The move was in response to conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Manchester and London also both suffered deadly extremist attacks that year.

It was also changed to “critical” in August 2006 after the security services said they had foiled a plot to blow up flights between Britain and the US.

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