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London on alert as military personnel guard key locations after Manchester attack

British military personnel were guarding key locations in London a day after the Manchester terror attack as the government raised the threat level from “severe” to “critical”.

world Updated: May 25, 2017 00:29 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Armed police officers stand on duty outside St Paul's Cathedral in London on May 24, 2017.
Armed police officers stand on duty outside St Paul's Cathedral in London on May 24, 2017. (Reuters)

There was no sign of campaigning for the June 8 election as military personnel took up positions at key locations such as Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and Westminster to free armed police for counter-terrorism operations after Monday’s Manchester terror attack.

Everyday life in Manchester, London and elsewhere was marked by sullenness and some uneasiness on Wednesday as Prime Minister Theresa May and security officials raised the threat level of international terrorism from “severe” to “critical”, anticipating an “imminent” attack.

Scotland Yard said on Wednesday it had increased police numbers and operations across London with immediate effect. It said the public would see more armed officers, and the locations of their deployment, types of tactics and numbers would continually change to be most effective and avoid predictability.

Military personnel in the stepped-up security plans number 3,800 but their involvement is intended to be a temporary measure, home secretary Amber Rudd said.

The police’s Project Servator is in place, under which teams of specialist officers are trained to spot telltale signs that a person may be carrying out hostile reconnaissance or committing other crimes.

Military to work under Scotland Yard’s command structure

Under Operation Temperer, the military personnel will work under Scotland Yard’s command structure to provide static armed guard at key locations, including Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster and embassies, the Yard said.

The Union Jack at Parliament and Whitehall at half mast on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Commander Jane Connors, leading the London policing operation, said: “The reality is that we must be prepared to be able to respond to and deal with armed and deadly attackers, so we must be in a position to respond with firearms officers who will use force to stop those attackers in their aim.

“We are using every tactical option – not just through the use of armed officers but ongoing work by the Counter Terrorism Command, working with partner agencies and gathering community intelligence.”

As a highly visible deterrent and disruptive tactic, officers will be making more use of stop-and-search operations, vehicle checkpoints and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology.

A total of 22 people were killed and nearly 60 injured when a suicide bomber targeted a concert hall in Manchester, described as the worst terror attack in Britain for more than a decade. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State.

Victims included children – the youngest an eight-year-old girl – and teenagers who had gathered for a sell-out concert in Manchester Arena (capacity: 21,000) by popular US singer Ariana Grande.

The suicide bomber was identified as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a British citizen of Libyan-origin who had dropped out of university. Born to a devout family in Britain’s third biggest city, he was known to security services and had turned to radical Islam in recent years.