LONDON, England – Britain has raised its official threat level for terror attacks from Northern Ireland republican dissidents, Home Secretary Theresa May says, amid reports that rebel groups have obtained explosives.
May confirmed the situation in a written statement to Parliament on Wednesday, adding that the MI5 security service’s decision to bump the threat level from moderate to substantial meant that “a terrorist attack is a strong possibility.”
As a result of the change, British police and other relevant authorities have stepped up measures to make sure overall security is not affected, May added.
May also advised people in England, Scotland, and Wales to remain vigilant and inform authorities of suspicious activities.
The home secretary stopped short of providing further details of any intelligence had led to the decision.
“The main focus of violent dissident republican activity continues to be in Northern Ireland, where they have targeted the brave police and prison officers who serve their communities day in and day out,” she explained, referring to a March bomb attack in east Belfast that led to the death of a prison guard.
Adrian Ismay, was a 52-year-old officer who trained staff at the top-security Maghaberry prison sustained injuries after a blast underneath his van and later died because of a heart attack.
The New IRA, a dissident republican group, claimed responsibility for the attack and linked it to an ongoing dispute between the prison authorities and republican inmates.
The group has increased its capacity to carry out bomb attacks after obtaining a powerful plastic explosive called semtex, republican sources say.
The claim was verified when traces of semtex were reportedly discovered at the scene of the attack.
British security agencies fear that dissident groups may have laid their hands on about a quarter of a ton of Libyan-supplied, Czech-made semtex.
The Irish threat level for Northern Ireland-related attacks remained at “severe,” police Service of Northern Ireland has warned that the terror threat from the New IRA, Continuity IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann — soldiers of Ireland — had intensified.
The threat level from Northern Irish in Britain was last rated as “substantial” about five years ago and returned to moderate in July 2011.
Dissident republicans do not support the current peace agreements in Northern Ireland that followed a 30-year conflict over a united Irish Republic, which claimed over 3,500 lives.