Friday and the spinning is easy – The new designation is the second highest after “critical,” meaning that an attack is expected imminently.
The assessment is made by a panel of security experts and officials, independent of government officials. Several European nations have voiced fears that their citizens who have joined the Sunni militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, will return home trained and equipped for terrorist acts. But the British response seemed to be among the most drastic.
“The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West,” Ms. May said, without offering direct evidence of those plans.
“Some of these plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have traveled there from the U.K. and Europe to take part in those conflicts,” she said. “The British public should be in no doubt that we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security.”
She added: “We face a real and serious threat in the U.K. from international terrorism. I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
In what seemed a related development, Mr. Cameron told a news conference that new laws would facilitate the seizure of the passports of suspected British jihadis. He said he would provide more detail in a statement to Parliament on Monday covering what he called legislation to fill “gaps in our armory.”
He drew a distinction between previous assessments that the main threat to British security came from Al Qaeda, which has broken with ISIS because of its extreme tactics.
The group spilled across the border from Syria in June to strike at north and central Iraq, leaving a trail of executions and beheadings and threatening minority groups. “What we are facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater threat to our security than we have seen before,” Mr. Cameron told a news conference, using an alternative name for ISIS.