UK Terrorism Threat Level Raised to ‘Severe’

November 3, 2020 Updated: November 3, 2020

Britain’s terrorism threat level was raised to “severe” on Nov. 3, meaning an attack is now judged to be “highly likely.”

“The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has changed the UK terror threat level from substantial to severe,” Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote on Twitter.

“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,” she wrote.

The decision to raise the threat level was taken by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which is based at British security agency MI5’s headquarters in London and consists of counter-terror experts from the police, government, and security agencies.

Vienna security
Heavily armed police stand outside the Vienna State Opera following shots fired in the city centre in Vienna, on Nov. 2, 2020. (Michael Gruber/Getty Images)

A series of Islamic terrorist attacks have hit Europe in recent weeks.

On Nov. 2, four people were killed and 22 wounded when gunshots were fired at crowds at six different locations in the city centre in Vienna, the capital of Austria.

One attacker was shot dead by police, and was later identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, a 20-year-old dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia, who had been sentenced to 22 months in jail in April 2019 for attempting to travel to Syria to join the ISIS terrorist group, and had been released early in December due to his young age.

France Nice church attack
Security forces guard the area after a knife attack at Notre-Dame church in Nice, France, on Oct. 29, 2020. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

On Oct. 29, a 21-year-old Tunisian man, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” beheaded an elderly woman and killed two more people at the city’s Notre-Dame church.

Even before the Nice attack, France was already on heightened security alert as Muslims in multiple Islamic countries expressed anger over the display and publication in France of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

The caricatures of Muhammad have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with a French history teacher, who was murdered by an 18-year-old Islamic terrorist on Oct. 16.

Samuel Paty
A child holds up a poster of slain French history teacher Samuel Paty, as people took part in demonstrations in support of free freedom and in tribute to Paty, on Republique square in Lille, northern France, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Michel Spingler/AP Photo)

Samuel Paty was beheaded in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb by a teenage Chechen refugee, who had sought to avenge his victim’s use of the caricatures in a class on freedom of expression. Police shot the attacker dead.

Following the Vienna attack, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said his country will not be intimidated by Islamic terrorists and is determined to fight the battle “between civilization and barbarism.”

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Austria’s embassy in Paris on Nov. 3 to express sympathies and solidarity.

“With all our hearts, today and tomorrow. We will hold on together, be sure of it,” he said. “We will not give in.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed shock on Twitter and said “we stand united with you against terror.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly and Reuters contributed to this report.