UK terrorism threat raised to severe, meaning attack is highly likely

The terrorism threat in the UK has been upgraded to severe.

It comes after a terror attack in Vienna in which four people were killed and after a string of violent incidents in France. The threat level for the UK from international terrorism is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC).

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has changed the UK terror threat level from substantial to severe. This is a precautionary measure and is not based on any specific threat. The public should continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Prior to the change, the terror threat level had been classed as substantial since November 2019 – following the death of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

What the terror threat levels mean

Threat levels are designed to give a broad indication of the likelihood of a terrorist attack.

  • LOW means an attack is highly unlikely
  • MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely
  • SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is likely
  • SEVERE means an attack is highly likely
  • CRITICAL means an attack is highly likely in the near future

MI5 is responsible for setting the threat levels from Irish and other domestic terrorism both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. In reaching a judgement on the appropriate threat level in any given circumstance, it takes into account several factors, including available intelligence, which will be based on a wide range of information, often fragmentary, including the level and nature of current terrorist activity and comparison with events in other countries.

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How should you respond?

MI5 says: “Threat levels in themselves do not require specific responses from the public. They are a tool for security practitioners working across different sectors of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and the police to use in determining what protective security response may be required.

“Vigilance is vital regardless of the current national threat level. It is especially important given the current national threat. Sharing national threat levels with the general public keeps everyone informed. It explains the context for the various security measures (for example airport security or bag searches) which we may encounter in our daily lives.”

On Monday, a suspected Islamist terrorist killed four people in a shooting attack in Vienna. Last week, three people died in a knife attack in Nice, France, and a teacher was murdered in Paris last month.