Britain raises terror threat level to ‘severe’ over Syria, Iraq

World Today

Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May addresses the Police Federation’s conference in Bournemouth, southern England on May 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Andrew Winning)

Britain raised its international terrorism threat level to the second-highest level of “severe” on Friday in response to possible attacks being planned in Syria and Iraq, Home Secretary Theresa May said.

This comes less than two weeks after a video released by the Islamic State showed the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by a masked knifeman speaking English with a London accent. An investigation to identify the attacker is ongoing.

UK fears Muslim extremists will return from Iraq, Syria

The U.K. has raised it terror threat to the second-highest level. Officials are concerned about Muslim extremists returning from Iraq and Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron is warning an attack on the U.K. is now "highly likely." CCTV America's Richard Bestic reports from London.

Secretary May said the decision to raise the threat level was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but that there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East.

“We face a real and serious threat in the U.K. from international terrorism,” Home Secretary Theresa May said. “I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”

May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government.

British police have appealed to the public to help identify aspiring terrorists after Foley’s killing focused attention on extremism in the U.K.

Authorities say around 70 arrests have been made in the first half of the year for a variety of offenses, including fundraising, preparing for terrorism acts, and traveling abroad for terrorist training. The police say such arrests are being made at a rate five times greater than in 2013.

The last time the rate was raised to severe was in September 2010 — in response to the attempt to detonate a bomb on a U.S. passenger plane over Detroit. It was last at the highest level, or “critical,” in June 2007, after a car on fire was driven into the Glasgow Airport terminal building and, separately, two devices were found in cars in central London.

Report compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press