MI5 raises threat of terror attack in Northern Ireland to 'severe' after police officers targeted

MI5 raises threat of terror attack in Northern Ireland to 'severe' after police officers targeted

BRITAIN has today raised the level of threat of a terror attack happening in Northern Ireland to ‘severe' - meaning it is now considered to be "highly likely”.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris informed Parliament this morning that MI5 has raised the terrorism threat level in the region.

In a statement he said: “The threat level to Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism is constantly monitored and is subject to a regular formal review.

“This is a systematic, comprehensive and rigorous process, based on the very latest intelligence and analysis of factors which drive the threat.

“The threat level review takes into account a range of factors and analysis of recent incidents.”

He explained that the decision to change the threat level is taken by MI5, independently of Ministers, adding: "The public should remain vigilant, but not be alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have to the Police Service of Northern Ireland."

Mr Heaton-Harris went on to cite recent unrest in the North as well as the attempted murder of a senior police officer as likely contributing factors to the threat level increase.

"Over the last 25 years, Northern Ireland has transformed into a peaceful society," he said.

"However, a small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence.

"In recent months, we have seen an increase in levels of activity relating to Northern Ireland Related Terrorism, which has targeted police officers serving their communities and also put at risk the lives of children and other members of the public.

"These attacks have no support, as demonstrated by the reaction to the abhorrent attempted murder of DCI Caldwell."

DCI John Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after being shot multiple times (Image: PSNI)

Responding to the move by MI5, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Today the threat level has been increased from substantial to severe by MI5.

“The independent assessment means the threat has moved from an attack is ‘likely’ to an attack is ‘highly likely’.

“This is part of an ongoing process of monitoring the threat level in Northern Ireland, which is conducted by MI5.”

He added: “We have spoken publicly about the number of attacks that have taken place in recent months, not least the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell on February 22.

“We will relentlessly pursue those who seek to cause harm and terrorise our communities, and attack my officers and staff, and I pay tribute to them as they continue to deliver for our communities.

“I would also like to thank the community and political leaders of Northern Ireland for their overwhelming support for the Police Service in recent times.

“We will not be deterred from delivering a visible, accessible and responsive community focused policing service to keep people safe.”