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UK terror threat level raised to 'severe'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 January 2010

The threat to Britain from international terrorism has been raised from substantial to severe - meaning an attack is "highly likely".

UK terror threat raised to severe by Home Secretary Alan Johnson. (Credit: Reuters)

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has issued the warning but he also urged calm, saying there was no intelligence to suggest a strike is imminent.

He said: "The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) has raised the threat to the UK from international terrorism from substantial to severe. This means that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

"But I should stress that there is no intelligence to suggest than an attack is imminent.

"JTAC keeps the threat level under constant review and makes its judgments based on a broad range of factors, including the intent and capabilities of international terrorist groups in the UK and overseas."

Mr Johnson added: "The highest security alert is critical and that means an attack is imminent, and we are not at that level."

He said more measures had been taken to protect aviation since the alleged failed bomb attack on a plane at Detroit at Christmas.

"We have a very adept and very focused counter-terrorism facility in this country and people should be reassured by that."

He said that moving to the different threat level meant people had to be more alert, but there was absolutely no intelligence to suggest that an attack was imminent.

Colonel Richard Kemp, former chairman of the COBRA Intelligence Group and Head of International Terrorism for the Joint Intelligence Committee, has told Channel 4 News that the level is likely to remain "severe" as the threat from al-Qaida grows. Read his article here.

Threat levels:
Low - attack is unlikely
Moderate - attack is possible, but not likely
Substantial - attack is a strong possibility
Severe - attack is highly likely
Critical - attack is expected imminently

Channel 4 News home affairs correspondent Simon Israel writes -
So, late on a Friday evening, the home secretary announces the threat level raised to one below imminent, two days after the prime minister announces a series of new security measures in the wake of the Yemeni-inspired plot to take down a transatlantic passenger flight.

Mr Johnson has emphasised in his statement that while raising the level, there is no immediate threat. But "severe" means an attack is highly likely.

The security services, I am told, have made this judgement on a number of factors - not just Yemen but activity picked up from Pakistan, where 75 per cent of the dangers to the UK emanate.

A source has confirmed that the decision has been made on a number of factors, but clearly the Christmas attempt has made everyone more jumpy.

It's the first time the threat level has been raised since July last year.

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