Threat Level Against MPs Raised to ‘Substantial’ After Amess Killing as Police Review Their Security
10:01 GMT 21.10.2021 (Updated: 10:05 GMT 21.10.2021)
Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old Briton of Somali heritage was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murdering Conservative lawmaker David Amess, who was stabbed to death on 15 October while at his constituency surgery in the Belfairs Methodist Church in the town of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The attack is being treated as a terrorist assault by police.
The threat level against UK Members of Parliament has been elevated to “substantial” following a security review by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), reported the BBC. The JTAC divides threat levels into five categories: low, moderate, substantial, severe and critical.
© AFP 2022 / TOLGA AKMENMembers of the Anglo-Iranian community and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) attend a memorial service to pay tribute to slain British lawmaker David Amess in Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London on October 18, 2021
Members of the Anglo-Iranian community and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) attend a memorial service to pay tribute to slain British lawmaker David Amess in Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London on October 18, 2021
The current review was prompted by the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess on 15 October. Addressing the House of Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“While we do not see any information or intelligence which points to any credible or specific or imminent threat, I must update the House that the threat level facing Members of Parliament is now deemed to be substantial."
As she urged MPs to take the change in risk, which is at the same level as the current national threat to the United Kingdom as a whole, “seriously”, Patel added:
"I can assure the House that our world-class intelligence and security agencies and counter-terror police will now ensure that this change is properly reflected in the operational posture."
Priti Patel also urged the MPs to seek security provisions and support available under Operation Bridger. The nationwide police effort was originally established to boost security of MPs after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.
"As well as for our own sake, we have a duty of care to protect our staff and the general public," said Patel.
The new level corresponds with the national risk guidance on terrorist attacks, implying that an attack is “likely”. A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council was quoted as saying: “In light of this announcement, we will be working closely with government, forces and parliamentary authorities to review the security offering for MPs, ensuring a more consistent security response wherever MPs are in the country. Any recommendations made to members will need to be bespoke to their individual circumstances.”
© REUTERS / JESSICA TAYLORBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson points during the weekly question time debate at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 10, 2021
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson points during the weekly question time debate at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 10, 2021
A day earlier, Patel and Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, wrote to inform MPs that counter-terrorism police were “on standby” to provide security advice. During constituency surgeries, or person-to-person meetings of MPs with voters, "trained security operatives" were available to offer support.
"If you receive a threat that you believe to be real and immediate, you should call 999 immediately," Patel and Hoyle were cited as saying.
69-year old Southend West MP David Amess was fatally stabbed on Friday afternoon as he was meeting constituents at his weekly “surgery” at Belfairs Methodist Church in the Essex town of Leigh-on-Sea.
A suspect was arrested at the scene and detained under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was later identified as 25-year-old Somalian Ali Harbi Ali, the son of Harbi Ali Kullanea, who describes himself on his Twitter account as a "Former Director of Media and Communication" to Somalia's ex-prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire. The fatal stabbing is being investigated as a possible terrorist incident.
© REUTERS / Dylan MartinezMourners leave candles in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in Birstall, during a vigil at Parliament Square in London, Britain June 17, 2016
Mourners leave candles in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in Birstall, during a vigil at Parliament Square in London, Britain June 17, 2016
The attack on Amess came slightly over five years after Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in a Yorkshire constituency, similarly on the day when she had been due to hold a surgery. In May 2010, Labour MP for east Ham Stephen Timms was stabbed twice in the stomach at a constituency surgery in east London by a 21-year-old student, Roshonara Choudhry.