National Security

UK Prepares For ‘Follow-On’ Attack After Manchester Bombing

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The United Kingdom has raised its terror threat advisory to its highest level in response Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester, readying the country for a potential follow-up attack.

MI5, Britain’s domestic security service, raised the threat to “critical” on Tuesday, meaning “an attack is expected imminently.” British authorities believe that Salman Abedi, the perpetrator of the attack, may be part of a terrorist cell inside the U.K., and that a “follow-on” attack could occur.

“In my statement earlier today, I said the police and security services needed to investigate whether or not Abedi was acting alone,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech Tuesday. “Those investigations continue. But the work undertaken throughout the day has revealed that it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack.”

The characteristics of Abedi’s bomb suggest a high level of expertise. The explosive contained nails and other forms of shrapnel in order to inflict maximum damage to human targets, a common jihadist tactic. While officials believe that Abedi received terrorist training, it is also possible he was working with a larger group.

Britain has raised the threat level to “critical” only three times in its history, the last being on June 30, 2007 after an attack on Glasgow International Airport. The first “critical” warning was issued on Aug. 10, 2006, approximately one year after the July 7, 2005 London bombings. Britain was on a “severe” warning prior to the Manchester attack, meaning “an attack is highly likely.”

Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Center (JTAC) is responsible for determining the country’s threat level. It makes its decisions based on available intelligence, terrorist capability, terrorist intentions and the possibility of an attack in the near future.

In response, the British government plans to deploy as many as 5,000 soldiers to the streets of Britain. The troops will be stationed at large events, including sports stadiums and concert halls. It is the first time since 2003 that British forces will be active inside the country.

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