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Manchester Arena attacks: UK raises terror threat level from severe to ‘critical’

Prime Minister Theresa May announced the new threat level after the second meeting of the government’s emergency committee (called ‘Cobra’)

world Updated: May 24, 2017 07:48 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Women react after lighting candles for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, May 23.
Women react after lighting candles for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, May 23.(Reuters Photo)

Based on new intelligence, Britain on Tuesday night raised its international terrorism threat from ‘severe’ to ‘critical’ level – the highest which means that another attack is ‘imminent’ – while the country was slowly coming to terms with Monday’s tragedy in Manchester.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced the new threat level after the second meeting of the government’s emergency committee (called ‘Cobra’) and said the change was based on fresh assessments by intelligence agencies.

“This morning I said that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the independent organisation responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available, was keeping the threat level under constant review,” she said.

“It has now concluded, on the basis of today’s investigations, that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.”

May revealed that continuing investigations after the suicide bombing in Manchester Arena by Salman Abedi revealed the possibility that there is a wider group of individuals behind the attack that killed 22 people and injured nearly 60.

A large number of people gathered in Manchester for a vigil on Tuesday evening. Prominent among those who helped the victims soon after the Monday attack was taxi driver Mann Singh, who offered free rides, and local gurdwaras. A group of local Sikh leaders also appealed for unity at the vigil.

May said a new operation called Temperer that allowed military personnel to take to the streets was now in force: “This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations”.

“You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe,” she added.

May, however, said she did not want the people to be unduly alarmed: “We have faced a serious terror threat in our country for many years and the operational response I have just outlined is a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face”.

The threat level was ‘critical’ for a few days only twice earlier; the first 2006 during a major operation to stop a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs; and in 2007 for the hunt for men who had tried to bomb a London nightclub, before going on to attack Glasgow Airport.