WASHINGTON, August 29, 2014 – The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) has raised the UK’s terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”, which mean an attack is “highly likely” but not imminent.
It is the second highest of five possible UK threat levels. The UK faced a severe threat in January 2010 and in the summer of 2011. It also raised the level to “severe” in 2006 after the discovery of liquid bombs aimed at airliners and in 2997 when extremists attempted to bomb Glasgow Airport and London’s West End.
The JTAC is the UK’s “independent body”, created in 2003, and tasked with assessing terrorist activity at home and abroad. The group is made of counter-terrorism experts from the police and 16 government departments and agencies and works closely with International Counter Terrorism Branch, which investigates terrorist activity in the UK.
The highest level is “critical”- meaning an attack is expected imminently. Officials have twice put the country on such an alert –
UK Secretary Theresa May this is being done in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria saying that:
“The first and most important duty of government is the protection of the British people,” said PM David Cameron, speaking from Downing Street, said at least 500 people had travelled from the UK to fight in Syria and potentially Iraq…we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security” and that “Islamic State (IS) extremists – who are attempting to establish a “caliphate”, or Islamic state, in the region – represented a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before”.
He also said that this threat is not because of the Iraq war, but the surge of ISIS.
To combat the threat, the government will have greater power to take passports away from people travelling abroad to join the conflict. Cameron says there is a “growing” threat of British citizens going to fight in Iraq and Syria then returning and the UK as hardened, radicalized jihadists.
The execution of US journalist James Foley by a person assumed to be a British national has helped to raise threat levels.
Announcing new measure to tackle terror suspects, Prime Minister David Cameron said the government must “do more” to stop people traveling to fight and to stop those who go returning and those changes may include changes in terms of policing and the ability to capture and retain passports to stem persons leaving the UK and returning to create terror threats.
A series of events has lead to the increased terror threat. They include new evidence of the brutality of ISIS including waterboarding of James Foley, plans for a biological attack with the assistance of a Tunisian scientist discovered after a recovered lap top contained videos of Bin Laden and recipes for biological weapons and the recent brutal execution of more than 250 Syrian soldiers.
“The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West.
“Some of those plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have travelled there from the UK and Europe to take part in those conflicts.
“We have already taken steps to improve our powers and increase our capabilities for dealing with the developing terrorist threats we face. That process will continue and the British public should be in no doubt that we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security.”
May continued that there is a “real and serious” threat from international terrorism, urging members of the public to remain vigilant.