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Britain raises terror threat level

LONDON – Britain raised the country’s terror threat level from substantial to severe Friday, meaning a terrorist attack is considered highly likely.

Home Secretary Theresa Mays said the decision to raise the threat level was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Mideast.

“We face a real and serious threat in the U.K. from international terrorism,” she said. “I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”

May said the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government. “Severe” is the second-highest of five levels.

British police have appealed to the public to help identify aspiring terrorists after the killing of a U.S. journalist focused attention on extremism in the U.K.

The involvement of a person of British nationality in James Foley’s beheading underscored the need to identify those who might travel abroad to fight or are at risk of being radicalized.

Authorities say around 70 arrests have been made in the first half of the year in a variety of offenses, including fundraising, preparing for terrorism acts and traveling abroad for terrorist training. Police said such arrests are being made at a rate five times greater than in 2013.

The last time the rate was raised to severe was in September 2010 – in response to the attempt to detonate a bomb on a U.S. passenger plane over Detroit.

It was last at the highest level, or critical, in June 2007, after a car on fire was driven into the Glasgow Airport terminal building in Scotland and – separately – two devices were found in cars in central London.

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