Interview: UK terror threat level could remain for some time, says expert

Source: Xinhua| 2020-11-21 22:12:55|Editor: huaxia

LONDON, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- It's been nearly three weeks since Britain raised the terror threat level from "substantial" to "severe" after a flurry of attacks in Nice and Vienna.

Tim Wilson, director of Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, has been following the trend of international terrorism since he took up directorship in 2016. He told Xinhua in a recent interview that the heightened alert level is used to raise public awareness of the risks and could remain for some time.

Britain's terrorism threat level has been upgraded from "substantial" to "severe" on Nov. 3, just hours after a shooting in Vienna in which four people died. In late October, three others died in a knife attack in Nice, France, and a teacher was murdered in Paris in the same month.

The British move means that London believes that an attack is highly likely but there is no specific intelligence of an imminent incident.

"I think that just that sort of raising of alertness generally can actually be enormously powerful... And I think it's more about mobilizing public awareness than anything else," he said, referring to the British government's decision to raise the terror threat level.

According to Wilson, any change in Britain's threat level could be down to what happens in Europe, and not focus on just domestic threats, which suggests that the "severe" threat level could remain for some time if the terrorism threat is still there for countries across Europe.

"I'd be surprised to see it being kind of lowered unilaterally in the UK, my guess and it is only a guess, but my guess would be this will rise and fall on sort of wider tides of what's happening in Europe and the near neighborhood and whether those attack levels seem to be easing because you know, the threat itself is of our time and we live in a transnational and globally networked age."

Over the past decades, fighting international terrorism has been high on the agenda of the UN Security Council, which groups China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States as the five permanent members. The 15-member council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.

From Wilson's own research, his team has noticed "a growing threat from the far right."

"We have seen a shift from an obsession to do with 'Islamist terrorism', to much more of an awareness of a growing threat from the far right," he said. "It's not like one which has entirely replaced the other but certainly in terms of academic interest and understanding what threats are coming down the line, there's been quite a shift there."

According to Wilson, the types of recent attacks and their levels of sophistication have "gone down several notches" compared to 2015-2016, but risks still remain.

"Just because they have gone down in sophistication, it doesn't mean that they have entirely gone away," he said. "It's always been there." Enditem