The British Security Service (MI5) has raised the threat level in Northern Ireland from domestic terrorism to "severe," its second-highest category, meaning that attacks are highly likely.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced the decision, based on an MI5 intelligence assessment, on Tuesday, saying that the terror level in Northern Ireland had been increased from "substantial" to "severe."
The threat for the British-controlled territory had been held at severe since the system was introduced in 2010. It was lowered to substantial for just over a year in 2022.
The move came after recent attacks on police offices and weeks ahead of a meeting by political leaders due to be held in Belfast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a 1998 peace deal that largely put an end to three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden said that he had accepted an invitation to visit Northern Ireland in April, and both Bill and Hillary Clinton are also due to attend anniversary-related events. The Good Friday Agreement was partially brokered by the US government of the then-President Bill Clinton.
"The public should remain vigilant, but not be alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have," Heaton-Harris, the British minister for the province, added in a written statement, citing a "small number" of people determined to cause harm through "politically-motivated violence."
Between 1969 and the April 1998, more than 3,600 people died during the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland between the Catholic community, who mainly back a united Ireland, the Protestant community, who mainly wish to remain part of the UK, and British forces.
As many as 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement that put an end to that conflict, many Irish families are still awaiting accountability.
Separately on Tuesday, Chief Constable Simon Byrne of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said that his officers would not be deterred from "delivering a visible, accessible and responsive community focused policing service to keep people safe."
On February 23, Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, while being off-duty, was shot several times by masked men in front of his son and other children at a sports complex in Omagh, County Tyrone. According to police, the deadly attack was carried out by the new IRA, a much smaller group than the Irish Republican Army, which disarmed following the Good Friday accord.
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