Britain raises threat level from N.Irish 'terrorism'

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

British security services have raised the threat level from Northern Ireland-related "terrorism" to suggest an attack is now a "strong possibility", Home Secretary Theresa May said Friday.

"The director-general of the Security Service has informed me that he has raised the threat to Great Britain from Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial, meaning that an attack is a strong possibility," she said.

"Judgments are based on a broad range of factors, including the intent and capabilities of terrorist groups."

She added: "The first and most important duty of government is the protection and security of the British people."

It is the first time the government has published its assessment of the threat posed by Irish-related extremists to Britain, although the threat has been made public since August 2006.

The international threat level is currently at "severe", the second highest of five threat levels, which means an attack is "highly likely".

Under Friday's assessment, the threat level for Britain as a whole was judged substantial but in Northern Ireland itself, it was judged severe.

Northern Ireland has been largely at peace since a 1998 agreement brought an end to three decades of sectarian violence, but sporadic attacks still occur.

Last week, the head of Britain's domestic security service MI5, Jonathan Evans, warned that extremists opposed to the peace process in Belfast could launch fresh attacks on the mainland.

In rare public comments, Evans said there had been a "persistent rise in terrorist activity and ambition" by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland over the past three years.

© 2010 AFP

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