Home Secretary Priti Patel raised the terrorist threat level to “severe,” meaning an attack on the U.K. is “highly likely.”
The step was taken as a precaution and was not based on a specific plot against Britain, Patel said on Twitter. Deadly incidents in France and Austria in recent weeks prompted the move, police said.
The U.K.’s terror threat has been rated “substantial” since November 2019, under which an attack was “likely,” but the attacks in continental Europe ahead of Covid-19 lockdowns led the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre to set a higher alert level as England prepares to enter its own nationwide restrictions on Wednesday night.
Austrian police made a number of arrests in raids in Vienna on Tuesday after a supporter of Islamic State shot dead at least three people in the center of the country’s capital on Monday night.
The Vienna shootings came after a jihadist killed three people last month in a church on France’s Cote d’Azur, and a teacher was beheaded in Paris after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to students during a discussion of freedom of speech.
Neil Basu, the U.K.’s head of Counter Terrorism Policing, said while the increased threat level was in response to the attacks in France and Austria, “there is no intelligence to link any of these attacks to the U.K..”
In February, a man was shot dead by police in south London after stabbing two people. He wore a fake suicide vest similar to the one used in the 2019 London Bridge stabbing.