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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


London, 1 August (AKI) - The British government on Tuesday for the first time made public its official assessment of the threat of a terrorist attack, warning that it is "severe," - the second highest in a five level categorisation published for the first time on the website of Britain's M15 intelligence service, as well as that of Britain's interior ministry.

The five level categorisation - low, moderate, substantial, severe and critical - rationalises the previous seven categories. The new system has seen the lowest possible threat level upgraded from "negligible" to "low" and echoes the five-level system of the United States.

Under the previous system of categories - which was only available to the security services - the national threat level had been set at "severe general" since August 2005.

When interior minister John Reid unveiled the new system last month, he warned it was "not an exact science," and appealed for continued public vigilance at all times.

Coordinated suicide bombings by four young Muslim extremists carried out on 7 July 2005 on London's transport system killed 56 people and injured 1,000. Despite an extensive and ongoing inquiry, police have not charged anyone in connection with the attacks, and have not established any links between the London bombers and al-Qaeda or any terror organisation.

On 6 July, the day before Britons prepared to mark the first anniversary of the London attacks, one of the London bombers - Pakistani-descended Shezad Tanweer, who died in the blasts with the other three attackers - appeared in a video aired by Arab satellite TV network Al Jazeera, warning of further attacks. "The attacks will continue until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq," Tanweer said in the video.

"What you have witnessed is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger, " he warns. The video included a statement from al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and an American, Gadahn, also known as Azzam al-Amriki, who US authorities believe to be in charge of al-Qaeda's propaganda.

Britain, whose foreign policy is closely aligned with that of the United States, continues to deploy thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of the few countries that has not called for a ceasefire in Lebanon - where a 20-day-long Israeli military offensive has killed at least least 600 people and injured over 1,500, triggering international condemnation and the ire of the Muslim world.
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