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(photo credit: )
Britain raised its terror threat alert to the
second-highest level Friday, one of several recent moves the country
has made to increase vigilance against international terrorists after a
Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Europe-US flight.
threat level was raised from "substantial" - where it had stood since
July to indicate a strong possibility of a terrorist attack - to
"severe," meaning such an attack is considered highly likely.
In making the announcement, Home Secretary Alan Johnson said
the raised security level means that Britain is heightening its
vigilance. But he stressed that there was no intelligence suggesting an
attack is imminent.
"The highest security alert is 'critical,' and that means an
attack is imminent, and we are not at that level," he said on British
Johnson declined to say what intelligence the change
was based on, or whether the move was related to the failed Christmas
bombing attempt, when US authorities say a young Nigerian named Umar
Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear
during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Abdulmutallab, who allegedly
had links to extremists based in Yemen, had studied as a university
student in London.
"It shouldn't be thought to be linked to Detroit, or anywhere
else for that matter," Johnson said. "We never say what the
said the decision to raise the threat level was made by the UK's Joint
Terrorism Analysis Center. He said the center kept the security threat
level under constant review and made its judgments based on a range of
factors, including the "intent and capabilities of international
terrorist groups in the UK and overseas."
Friday's changes came days after Britain suspended direct
flights to Yemen's capital in response to the growing threat from
al-Qaida-affiliated militants based in that country. Prime Minister
Gordon Brown said his government also was creating a new terrorist
no-fly list, and targeting specific airline passengers for tougher
The measures followed a discussion between Brown and US
President Barack Obama on Tuesday. They match similar moves made by US
authorities last week to enhance security at airports and on planes, as
intelligence officials warned that al-Qaida's branch in Yemen was
continuing to plot attacks on the United States.
The stepped-up security in the US included more air marshals on
flights to and within the US and additional screening at airports
around the world.
Brown said Britain and other nations face a sharply growing
threat from al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists based in Yemen and an area
of north Africa that includes nations such as Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan
Officials and analysts say Britain's new alert level could be
related to the emergence of a steady stream of threat information since
the thwarted Christmas Day attack.
In Washington, a senior US official said late Friday that the
British move would have followed a specific threat, but the official
would not discuss details.
However, the official said the United States did not believe
the heightened alert was related to upcoming conferences the British
government is hosting on Yemen and Afghanistan next week in London.