The UK faces a “severe terrorist threat”, David Cameron has warned after at least eight British holidaymakers were shot dead on a Tunisian beach.
The Prime Minister said there would be “heightened security” today as events are held across the UK to mark Armed Forces Day, amid fears of a similar attack on home soil.
The UK’s terror threat level remains at “severe”, the second highest level meaning an attack is “highly likely”, as a team of British police officers were sent to Tunisia.
Mr Cameron said: “There’s no doubt we face a very severe threat in our country and we have done for many months and many years, but the level of the threat is identified independently of government and published in the proper way.”
He said the most important thing is to “carry on” thanking the armed forces for their work “knowing that in our country we face a severe terrorist threat”.
But he said if people worked together, were vigilant and backed the police, “we can combat this poisonous narrative of Islamist extremism that is radicalising too many young minds in our country”.
The UK’s terror threat level was raised to “severe” last August in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria - one level below “critical” when an attack is believed to be “imminent”.
Speaking at Scotland Yard’s headquarters today, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, national policing lead for counter terrorism, said: “There’s an independent body of experts that assess the threat and they’re keeping it at severe.
“That is a very significant level.” Mr Rowley said, as he warned it was “fairly clear” the location of the Tunisian attack was chosen because of the number of Westerners present.
He said: “We’ve deployed a large number of officers out to Tunisia, both in terms of our own evidence gathering - forensic experts helping the Tunisia authorities - and also we’ve got experts in family liaison assisting.”
Asked if the Met had foiled any plots since Ramadan, he said: “We don’t give details of individual plots
“Over the last year we’ve been making nearly an arrest a day. There have been a handful of plots near to commission that have been foiled and many more plots, where people have had the aspiration, where we’ve disrupted them early in their plans and their thinking.”
He urged the public to be “vigilant” and said anyone with information about terrorism, including the attack in Tunisia, should contact police.
Domestic terror arrests increased by almost a third last year, as police and religious leaders try to halt the number of people joining Islamic extremists in Syria.
There were 289 arrests for terrorism-related offences during 2014, an increase of 30% compared with the previous year.
It comes against a backdrop of counter-terrorism work by British police to stem the flow of disaffected young Muslims joining Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq to wage war against the West.
An estimated 700 Britons are believed to have fled to join Islamic militants, including three sisters and their nine children who left their homes in Bradford earlier this month.