The government has raised the terror threat to the UK to “severe”, the second-highest level, for the first time in three years because of the growing activity of Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq. A severe threat level means an attack “is highly likely although there is no intelligence to suggest that one is imminent”, the government said, according to the Financial Times.
Theresa May, the home secretary, said terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq were planning attacks against the west. “Some of these plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have travelled there from the UK and Europe to take part in those conflicts,” she said.
David Cameron said the “root cause” of the threat was “a poisoned ideology of Islamist extremism that forces people to accept a warped world view and live in an almost medieval state”.
Some 500 Britons are thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with jihadi groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, which have seized a huge swath of territory along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers from Aleppo in Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq, adds the report.
Mr Cameron said new powers to stop people travelling overseas and seize passports would be announced in parliament on Monday. He urged the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to the police but said the risk of being caught up in a terrorist attack was “very low”, according to the report.
“We’re facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in a country but seeking to establish and expand its own terrorist state,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a generational struggle . . . that we will be fighting for years and probably decades,” he added.
“Increasing the threat level reflects concern within the CT [counter terrorism] community that the risk of an attack in the UK is more likely. Foreign fighters, it seems, have decided to come home from Syria and Iraq,” said Charlie Edwards, a former senior home office security official and now director of national security and resilience studies at the Royal United Services Institute told the Financial Times.
“While an attack is not seen as imminent by the government we have clearly passed a threshold where extra security measures are seen as prudent,” he said.