Saturday, January 23, 2010

(BN) U.K. Raises Terror-Threat Level to `Severe'; U.S. Level Remains Unchanged

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

U.K. Raises Its Terrorism Threat Level to Severe

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. raised its international terrorism threat level to "severe" from "substantial," indicating authorities consider an attack "highly likely."

"I should stress that there is no intelligence to suggest that an attack is imminent," Home Secretary Alan Johnson said in the statement today announcing the change.

The heightened alert comes two days after the government suspended direct flights between Yemen and the U.K. as British officials prepare to host conferences next week in London on Yemen and on the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. government said it doesn't plan to follow the U.K. action with its own raised alert.

The highest level of alert in the U.K.'s five-tier scale is "critical," meaning an attack is "expected imminently." "Severe" comes next, followed by "substantial," indicating an attack is a "strong possibility." The last two threat levels are moderate and low.

Earlier today India alerted its airports and national airline after intelligence reports said hijackers may attempt to seize a plane flying in South Asia. The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry ordered extra searches of passengers before they board and the use of sky marshals on some flights, according to a government statement.

Dec. 25 Incident

The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda said it was behind a Dec. 25 plot in which Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on its approach to Detroit.

Several hundred al-Qaeda members in remote tribal areas of Yemen may be preparing for attacks similar to last month's plane plot in the U.S. and elsewhere, President Barack Obama's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, John Brennan, said on Jan. 3.

The U.S. has no plans now to raise its terror threat level, an Obama administration official said after the U.K. posted the increased alert. The official asked not to be identified. The overall threat level of the U.S. is elevated, or yellow, meaning there is a "significant risk" of attack. Yellow is the third of five tiers in the threat alert.

The country's threat level for domestic and international flights is high, or orange, which is the second-most severe on the scale.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Jan. 20 announced stepped-up security following the attempted Christmas Day attack including the creation a "no-fly list" of terrorist suspects and a second list of those who will be subject to increased security screening prior to boarding flights heading to Britain.

The nation's three intelligence agencies will focus on investigating individuals "long before" they reach the country, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: James Hertling in Paris at jhertling@bloomberg.net Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

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