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Troops on the Streets as UK Ups Threat Level to Critical

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Officer cadets parade at the British military’s Sandhurst Academy. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The UK has upgraded the country’s threat level to “critical,” the highest threat level, following the May 22 terror attack which killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester. The designation, decided upon by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, means the government believes another attack may be imminent.

Law-enforcement officers are investigating whether Monday’s suicide bomber acted alone and they are pursuing leads to find and arrest anyone who may have been involved or who may be planning a fresh terrorist attack.

The bomber, Salman Abedi, 22, of Libyan descent, is feared to be part of a broader network connected to Islamic State. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered soldiers deployed to the streets as a means of boosting security for key sites. The soldiers are part of  “Operation Temperer,” a government plan which has been in place since 2015 but which has so far never been used.

Up to 5,000 soldiers will be deployed around the country, guarding sites including Buckingham palace, embassies and parliament.

“This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations,” Theresa May told journalists in explaining the decision.

“You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events, such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe.  In all circumstances, members of the armed forces who are deployed in this way will be under the command of police officers. Precisely how the military and armed police officers will be deployed is an operational decision for police commanders.”

On May 23 a man with an axe was arrested at a vigil in Birmingham for the victims of the terrorist attack.

In an unrelated incident, a 37-year-old man was arrested attempting to board a flight to Turkey from Stansted Airport near London. He is being held on suspicion of attempting to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State.

 

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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.