UK terror threat raised to 'severe' after France and Vienna attacks

3 November 2020, 16:15 | Updated: 3 November 2020, 17:19

A terror attack in the UK is judged as 'highly likely'
A terror attack in the UK is judged as 'highly likely'. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

The UK's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe", meaning an attack is deemed "highly likely".

It follows a series of attacks in Europe over recent days.

The upgrade by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (Jtac) means the terror risk has returned to the second highest level. Previously, an attack was judged as "likely".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has changed the UK terror threat level from substantial to severe.

"This is a precautionary measure and is not based on any specific threat.

"The public should continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police."

On Monday night, four people were killed in an attack in Austrian capital Vienna.

Gunmen, believed by Austrian police to have been driven by an Islamist motive, left several others wounded as they went on a shooting spree on the eve of the country's lockdown, armed with an assault rifle, carrying other handguns, and wearing a fake explosive belt.

Last week, three people died in a stabbing in Nice, France, while teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated in Paris last month.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, UK head of Counter Terrorism Policing, said there was “no intelligence” to link the attacks in Austria and France to the UK and the move was a "precautionary measure... not based on a specific threat".

The terror threat level has been at "substantial" since November 2019, when it was lowered from "severe" for the first time in five years.

This was the same month that two Cambridge University workers were killed when Usman Khan began stabbing people at a prison rehabilitation conference next to London Bridge.

The highest terror threat level is "critical", and this was reached in May 2017 following the Manchester Arena bombing.

The Jtac, which sets the terror levels, is based at MI5's London headquarters and consists of counter-terrorism experts from the police, government and security agencies.

The five levels of threat set by the Jtac are:

- Low: an attack is highly unlikely

- Moderate: an attack is possible but not likely

- Substantial: an attack is likely

- Severe: an attack is highly likely

- Critical: an attack is highly likely in the near future