UK terror threat level raised: As it happened

Key Points

  • The UK's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe" in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria
  • Home Secretary Theresa May says the new alert level means an attack on the UK is "highly likely" - but there is no intelligence to suggest one is "imminent"
  • PM David Cameron says Islamic State extremists pose a "greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before"
  • Mr Cameron announces new legislation to make it easier to take passports away from Britons travelling to join the conflicts

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    The UK international terror threat level has been raised to "severe".

    Home Secretary Theresa May announced that an attack was "highly likely", although there was no evidence to suggest it was "imminent".

    Prime Minister David Cameron will make a statement shortly. We'll bring you the latest updates throughout the afternoon.

    Prime Minister David Cameron

    tweets: I'll be making a statement on the raising of the UK Threat Level from international terrorism to Severe at 2.45pm.


    "Severe" is the second highest of five possible threat levels used in the UK.

    Mrs May said the change was related to "developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West".


    The home secretary added: "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."

    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Terror threat raised. Now severe which means attack "highly likely". Remember tho it was that high for many of years since 7/7

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Threat level of "severe" means attack considered "Highly likely". Home Secretary says threat linked to Syria/Iraq rather than a known plot


    The UK's threat level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which is independent of ministers.

    You can read more about the Centre here.


    Mrs May also called on members of the public to "remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police".

    National Policing Lead for Counter-Terrorism Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said visible patrols would be increased from Friday afternoon. He said "other security and protection measures" would also be implemented.


    Watch Home Secretary Theresa May's earlier statement here.


    The threat level in the UK last changed in July 2011, when it was reduced to "substantial".


    Fears have been raised in recent weeks about British extremists who have travelled to fight in Iraq and Syria returning to the UK.

    Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, has estimated that around 500 to 600 Britons have gone to fight with militant jihadist group Islamic State.

    On Thursday, he said it was thought about 250 "militarised" fighters had returned to the UK already.


    These are the UK terror threat levels:

    • Critical - attack expected imminently
    • Severe - attack highly likely
    • Substantial - attack a strong possibility
    • Moderate - attack possible but not likely
    • Low - an attack unlikely

    Source: Home Office


    Police have urged communities and families to report anyone who is "vulnerable, a danger or escalating towards terrorism" by calling the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.


    British involvement in terrorist group Islamic State has been in the public eye since the killing of US journalist James Foley.

    In a video released by the group, a man speaks with a British accent in the moments before the apparent beheading of Mr Foley.

    Jihadist shown in James Foley beheading video The man shown in the video spoke with an English accent

    It has been suggested in reports that the man in the video may have been nicknamed John - one of three British men dubbed "The Beatles" - John, Paul and Ringo. You can read more on what we know about Mr Foley's killing here.


    Prime Minister David Cameron is speaking at Downing Street about the terrorist threat.

    He says: "My first priority as prime minister is to do everything possible to keep our people safe."


    Mr Cameron says the Islamic State group is a threat to security in the UK.

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: PM speaking now: The attempt to create this extremist caliphate [in Iraq and Syria] is a threat to the UK


    The prime minister says the root cause of the threat is the "poisonous ideology of Muslim extremism".


    Mr Cameron says the current situation in Iraq is a deeper threat to security than "what we have known before". He says we cannot appease ideology, but must confront it at home and abroad.


    The prime minister says military force is just one element of what Britain can do in the Middle East. Aid and diplomacy are also important, he says.


    Mr Cameron says Islamic State is "seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state".


    We are in the middle of generational struggle that could last decades, the prime minister says.

    He adds: "We will always act with urgency when needed."


    The terror threat level in the UK has been raised to "critical" twice in the past.

    The first time was in August 2006 after police uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes. The second was in June 2007 after an attack at Glasgow Airport.

    The level last changed in July 2011 when it was reduced to "substantial".

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: PM says these extremists follow poisonous ideology ... nothing to do with Islam


    Mr Cameron says the scale of the threat faced in the UK is growing. It is becoming clear there are gaps in our armoury, he says, and they need to be tackled.

    New steps to stop people travelling and remove passports will be announced in Parliament on Monday, he adds.


    Prime Minister David Cameron has just finished making a statement in Downing Street in which he said the UK faced a "greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before".


    The PM is now answering questions from the press on the decision to raise the terror threat level.


    "Britain is an open, tolerant and free nation," Mr Cameron says. But that cannot be confused with tolerance of extremism, the PM adds.


    The prime minister has said new legislation will make it easier to confiscate passports from people travelling abroad to fight.

    Alexander Fletcher

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay It seems to be scaremongering. The government are trying to make themselves look busy.

    Ross Baxter

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Best to act than do nothing and an attack happen. #bettersafethansorry


    Mr Cameron calls on people to go about their daily lives as normal despite the threat level being raised.


    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay The gvt has a duty to keep its citizens safe. They should take any & all steps required 2 do so. Remove radicals from UK.

    Charlotte Salomon

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Cameron's address regarding ISIL was stronger than Obama's.

    David O'Neill

    tweets: Terror alert raised to severe. Must be an election or a war coming up.


    Speaking about the UK's strategy in Iraq, Mr Cameron says approach must include:

    • Working with Kurds to make sure they are properly armed in fight with extremists
    • Working with allies like the United States to share intelligence
    • Ensuring the Iraqi government works for all people in the country
    • Delivering aid to the region

    Mr Cameron says there is no doubt Islamic State "is targeting all of us in Western Europe", adding that the organisation wants to kill innocent people.

    Laura Kuenssberg Chief Correspondent

    tweets: Cameron's language on ISIS threat v strong, but tougher rules on confiscating passports seems more or less only new policy for now


    The key element of Mr Cameron's comments appears to be the announcement that there will be new legislation to make it easier to take passports away from people who would travel abroad to fight.

    More details will come on Monday when he addresses Parliament.

    Carole Hawkins

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Politicians trying to seem important as if they have any idea of anything which they don't.

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Does that remind anyone of Tony Blair's "Rules of the Game have changed" speech 2005..?

    Darren Fletcher

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay i will not feel safe with these new security measures until i see definitive stats thats its affecting ISIS growth.


    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Probably about as accurate as the weather forecasting

    Ellyn Berman-Jones

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay removing passports is just the first step, what rights will be removed next?


    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Mr Cameron is gradually losing my vote by pandering to the uneducated & fearful rather than dealing with real life issues.

    Paul Waugh, editor of PoliticsHome website

    tweets: Wow that's it. Three broadcasters, one print question. Not quite a *press* conference #opengovernment


    Mr Cameron said during his press conference that IS had already carried out attacks in Europe. He made specific reference to an attack at the Jewish museum in Belgium earlier this year. You can read more here.

    Don, Gillingham, UK

    writes: What are our EC and Nato partners doing to reduce threat? It is one thing to control airports but entirely another to try to control ports where people have travelled overland.


    Professor Andrew Silke from the University of East London tells the BBC News Channel he believes today's announcement is a reaction to the killing of James Foley.

    But he says he is not convinced it is necessary, with strong measures already in place in the UK.


    Prof Silke says most people returning from Iraq and Syria are not going to get involved in terrorism back in the UK.

    Alex Thomson, of Channel 4 News

    tweets: Have the WMDs of yesteryear become the returning jihadis of today?

    Paul Waugh, editor of PoliticsHome website

    tweets: Nigel Farage called for passport curbs on Aug 19. Yday, Clegg agreed, tday Cam does. Good e.g. of #UKIP impact on UK politics

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: I'm a bit confused about why the government needs to have a new power to withhold passports - Home Secretary can already do that.


    Islamic State, which following its gains in Syria and Iraq stands with al-Qaeda as one of the most dangerous jihadist groups, is profiled here.

    Obi Wan Connobi

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay How many british Muslims support an islamic state is a question that needs to be asked.


    Baroness Neville-Jones, a former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, says she is "not surprised" the terror threat has been raised.

    She tells BBC News it is "not something you do for the sake of it".

    tha root

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay ISIS are the result of westen intervention. This is what happens when you supply rebels with Arms

    15:36: Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    offers analysis of the decision to raise the UK terror threat level in our report here.

    15:37: Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    says: "The raised threat level may not lead to visible signs of change on the streets - but it is a sign of the increased concern and security activity behind the scenes involving all of the UK's intelligence and security bodies."

    15:37: Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    points out: "If security chiefs had knowledge of a clear threat they could not contain, the level would already be one notch higher."

    Brian, Lichfield, Staffs, UK

    writes: We have to be wary here. Surely by taking these steps we're doing exactly what the terrorists want by instilling a sense of fear and danger which isn't actually present? We should have acted in Syria at the start, any action now is too late

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Passports can be withheld under the Royal Prerogative exercised by the Home Secretary. it's been used to take passports off Syria travellers


    BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says that for 99% of people in the UK, the change to the threat level will not make "any difference to our lives whatsoever".


    Here are some details about the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which sets the UK terror threat level:

    • JTAC is the UK's independent body for assessing terrorist activity at home and abroad
    • Established in 2003, it is based at the headquarters of the Security Service (MI5) at Thames House in central London
    • It sets threat levels and issues warnings to ministers and government agencies
    • Comprises counter-terrorism experts from the police and 16 government departments and agencies
    • Works with the International Counter Terrorism Branch, which investigates terrorist activity in the UK, in its assessment of threat levels
    Lewis Godsmark

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay On one hand this could be scaremongering, or a genuine protective measure to ensure our safety, can we tell.. probably not

    Oliver, London, UK

    writes: All I hear David Cameron talking about is what we already know, but what is the government actually going to do?

    George, Romford, UK

    writes: The rise of the terrorist threat level was inevitable due to the escalation of the IS movement, radicalisation is something that can not be ignored. Also, the our government needs to be cautious, the last thing this country needs is another war to have a negative impact on this country's economic climate.


    During his press conference, Mr Cameron said the threat faced by the UK from IS "is a greater threat to our security than we have seen before".

    "In Afghanistan the Taliban were prepared to pay host to al-Qaeda, a terrorist organisation," he said.

    "With ISIL [IS] we are facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in a country but actually seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state."

    You can find out more about the rise of IS here.


    Mr Cameron spoke of the threat to all of western Europe during his press conference.

    The Netherlands has introduced new anti-terror measures today, too. According to the AP news agency, the measures include beefing up the government's ability to strip people of Dutch nationality.

    The move is also aimed at countering the spread of extremism online and via social media.

    Prime Minister David Cameron
    David Cameron at press conference

    tweets: The UK Threat Level from international terrorism has been raised to severe. We will respond calmly and purposefully, but without compromise.


    How do you go about deradicalising Brits who return from fighting in Syria? BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani blogged on the subject last week.


    BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier says around 23 people have already had passports taken from them because they were planning to travel to Syria. The new measures announced by David Cameron today are likely to make that process easier.

    Prime Minister David Cameron

    tweets: On Monday, I will speak in the House on the measures we're taking to defeat extremism, protect our way of life and keep all our people safe.

    Israel, Lagos, Nigeria

    writes: The decision is meant for those going to Syria and Iraq, to join IS there. How about the Britons going to Nigeria, for example, and going to Syria or Iraq, from Nigeria?

    Brit in Germany

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay attack IS and the threat in the UK increases further. Leave them alone and the UK stays safer. Valid argument?


    Dr David Lowe, who lectures in crime and security at Liverpool John Moores University, tells the BBC News Channel current government programmes have had some success in tackling extremism in the UK. But he says it is "very, very difficult" to completely stop people being radicalised.

    Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Royal Prerogative used 14 times in year to March 2014 to withhold passports


    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tells the BBC News Channel the government is "of course right to take this assessment very seriously".

    Gavin, Market Harborough, UK

    writes: Wherever we stick our noses in in the Arab world on the pretext of 'aiding the population', we inevitably leave more carnage and wrecked lives than if we had let events take their course.


    Mrs Cooper says Mr Cameron is right to talk about a "barbaric political ideology... a perversion of a religion". She adds more must be done to work with communities to prevent young people being drawn into this ideology.


    Mrs Cooper says the Labour party is keen to work with the government to tackle radicalisation. She says ministers should look at strengthening the Prevent programme and tackling new recruitment methods such as social media.

    She also reiterates her view that the government should reconsider its decision to scrap control orders.


    Here's a reminder of what's happened:

    • The terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe" in response to events in Iraq and Syria
    • Home Secretary Theresa May says the new alert level means an attack on the UK is "highly likely" - but there is no intelligence to suggest one is "imminent"
    • David Cameron says Islamic State extremists pose a "greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before"
    • He announces new legislation to make it easier to take passports away from Britons travelling to join the conflicts
    Luke Smith

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay an admission by the UK government that they aren't doing their job correctly or current plans against terror don't work


    Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, says the development suggests officials are "very concerned" about the terrorist threat linked to Iraq and Syria.

    "This is something that has been building for some time. It seems to have been ratcheted up even more recently," he says.

    "There is potential for hundreds of people with knowledge of the battlefield to come back. It all speaks to a very dangerous confluence of events. The threat picture is very menacing."


    "Threat level" is currently number five in the list of UK trending terms on Twitter.


    Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tells Sky News she has not seen full details of the new legislation the prime minister is proposing - but she would want to work with the government on this.


    That's all for our live coverage of reaction to the raised terror threat level for the UK. You can continue to follow developments on the website and other BBC outlets.


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