The UK government has raised the threat level of international terrorism to “critical” – meaning an attack is expected imminently – according to the MI5 intelligence service’s website.
The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism remains at “severe” in Northern Ireland itself, and “substantial” in Great Britain, adding further evidence the Manchester bombing on May 22 was committed by a foreign-affiliated individual.
Up to 5000 soldiers and special forces personnel, alongside armed police officers, will also deploy on to key streets across the UK and around expected targets, under a previously revealed plan called “Operation Temperer.”
The announcement marks the first time since October 2012 the terror alert for international terrorism has been lifted (it was then increased from “substantial” to “severe”).
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who has called an early election for June 8, says the risk of a follow-on attack is high.
“It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” she says.
Counter-terrorism officials are reportedly hunting for accomplices or others associated with Salman Abedi, who allegedly detonated an explosive at a concert in Manchester on May 22. The attack is believed to have been a suicide bombing.
Deaths from the attack have reached 22 concertgoers while at least 59 others are severely wounded. Several video recordings captured the attack as the Ariana Grande show was ending at 10.33pm local time and attendees departed through the venue foyer.
Mrs May described the bombing as “one of the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the UK.”
“It stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice – deliberately targeting innocent, defenceless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
Given the complexity and good planning of the attack, British authorities believe Mr Abedi travelled to Libya and may have received bombmaking and terrorist training in either that or another North African or Middle Eastern country before returning to the UK.
The authorities also say the bomber was previously known to security services.
The Islamic State’s media arm Amaq posted a claim of responsibility for the attack on May 23, saying Mr Abedi was a “soldier of the caliphate.” However, it is unknown whether the bomber was directly instructed and directed by the group, which has franchise operations in half a dozen countries.
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