Terror Threat In Northern Ireland Raised To 'Severe' - Meaning Attack Highly Likely

The United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency MI5 on Tuesday announced a heightened terror threat level for Northern Ireland, moving it from "substantial" to "severe".

This means that according to the British government an attack is highly likely, according to UK media reports, with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris informing the House of Commons that the decision was MI5's alone and was independent of ministers based on the threat evidence before authorities.

Terror Threat In Northern Ireland Raised To 'Severe' - Meaning Attack Highly Likely
Via Sky News: Masked members of the Real IRA at a Republican Easter commemoration ceremony at Creggan cemetery in Londonderry.

He briefed members of parliament via written statement, which reads: "MI5 has increased the threat to Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism from 'SUBSTANTIAL' (an attack is likely) to 'SEVERE' (an attack is highly likely).

"The public should remain vigilant, but not be alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)."

The last suspected terror-related violence in the region occurred on February 22 of this year with the murder of a senior police officer, Det Ch Insp John Caldwell, shot outside a soccer complex in Omagh, County Tyrone:

He was off duty and was putting footballs into the boot of his car after coaching young people when two gunmen approached him and shot him several times.

...Police said the primary focus of their investigation was on violent dissident republicans, including the New IRA.

The New IRA later claimed responsibility in a typed statement which appeared in Londonderry on Sunday 26 February.

While the UK government views Northern Ireland as largely peaceful compared to the height of violence in the 20th century, "a small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence," according to Secretary Heaton-Harris.

He cited "increase in levels of activity relating to Northern Ireland Related Terrorism, which has targeted police officers."

In November of last year, there was a bombing attempt, according to BBC:

An attempted murder investigation was launched after a police patrol vehicle was damaged in a bomb attack in Strabane, County Tyrone, on 17 November.

Police said a strong line of inquiry was that the New IRA was behind the attack. Four men who were arrested were later released.

Heaton-Harris' briefing additionally said, "The political future of Northern Ireland rests with the democratic will of the people and not the violent actions of the few." He added: "Together we will ensure there is no return to the violence of the past."

The five official terror threat levels in the UK are as follows:

• Low - an attack is highly unlikely

• Moderate - an attack is possible, but not likely

• Substantial - an attack is likely - this is the UK's national threat level

• Severe - an attack is highly likely

• Critical - an attack is highly likely in the near future

At the moment the threat level over the whole of the United Kingdom is "substantial".

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