The British government has raised the country’s terror threat level to “critical”, indicating the military may be deployed onto UK streets.
The move — following an emergency meeting of Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) — takes the UK to its highest terror threat level for the first time in a decade.
In June 2007, the level was raised from ‘Severe’, indicating a “an attack is highly likely” to ‘Critical’, indicating “an attack is expected imminently” following the discovery of multiple car bombs at locations outside nightclubs and airports.
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), which in turn reports to security services such as MI5, is responsible for the elevated threat level following the Monday night terrorist attack in Manchester that killed 22 and injured over 100 people.
The threat level had previously been downgraded to ‘Substantial’ meaning an attack is a “strong possibility” between July 2011 and August 2014. It was then raised to Severe in response to events in Iraq and Syria, coinciding with a high point of territorial gain by the Islamic State.
The United Kingdom has five terror levels: Low, Moderate, Substantial, Severe, and Critical. Since the implementation of the new levels in 2006, the rating has never dropped below Substantial.
Reports emerging from the UK press also suggest around 5,000 members of the UK’s military may be deployed onto British streets in order to deter attacks.
Unlike its European counterparts, Britain has little tradition of deploying the military on domestic soil. The last serious deployment was in 2003, when tanks were stationed at Heathrow Airport in an attempt to disrupt a passenger airliner bomb plot. Around 450 troops were also deployed at this time.
Prior to that, the last time a major British Army contingent was deployed in Britain was during the Troubles, when Irish Republican terrorists routinely targeted British population centres, one of which included the central Manchester area just five minutes from the arena where Ariana Grande’s concert ended in terror on Monday night.
During the Troubles, the British army deployed 21,000 troops.