Northern Ireland terrorism threat level raised to 'severe' meaning an attack 'highly likely'

MI5 has increased the terror threat level in Northern Ireland from substantial to "severe", Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has announced.

The change means the risk of an attack goes from "likely" to "highly likely".

It follows a number of recent incidents including the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell in Omagh last month.

Mr Heaton-Harris said a "small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence".

He said: "In recent months, we have seen an increase in levels of activity relating to Northern Ireland-related terrorism, which has targeted police officers serving their communities and also put at risk the lives of children and other members of the public.

"These attacks have no support, as demonstrated by the reaction to the abhorrent attempted murder of DCI Caldwell."

Northern Ireland's level had been lowered to substantial a year ago - the first time it had been altered since 2010.

The threat level from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism is constantly monitored and is subject to a regular formal review, the secretary of state said.

He said this is a "systematic, comprehensive and rigorous process, based on the very latest intelligence and analysis of factors which drive the threat".

He said the threat level review takes into account a range of factors and analysis of recent incidents. 

What the MI5 threat levels mean:

  • LOW means an attack is highly unlikely

  • MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely

  • SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is likely

  • SEVERE means an attack is highly likely

  • CRITICAL means an attack is highly likely in the near future

Following the announcement, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said the PSNI "will not be deterred" from its work to keep people in Northern Ireland safe.

"This is part of an ongoing process of monitoring the threat level in Northern Ireland, which is conducted by MI5," said the chief constable.

"We have spoken publicly about the number of attacks that have taken place in recent months, not least the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell on 22 February.

“We will relentlessly pursue those who seek to cause harm and terrorise our communities, and attack my officers and staff, and I pay tribute to them as they continue to deliver for our communities.

“I would also like to thank the community and political leaders of Northern Ireland for their overwhelming support for the Police Service in recent times.

“We will not be deterred from delivering a visible, accessible and responsive community focused policing service to keep people safe.”

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