Last week, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom, raised the terror threat level in the country from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ (the second highest level in the UK), meaning that another attack in the country is “highly likely.” This happened after a bomb exploded last week outside of a women’s hospital in the British city of Liverpool. The man who set off the bomb, an asylum seeker named Emad Al Swealmeen, had a history of mental health issues, and was not a person of interest to MI5 at the time. He set off the explosion in the backseat of a taxi that he had hired to drive to the hospital. Swealmeen was the only casualty of the attack, as the taxi driver, David Perry, managed to escape the vehicle with only minor injuries.
Fortunately, the taxi was not close enough to do any damage to anyone outside of the vehicle, and after only a few hours of treatment, Perry was discharged from the hospital. Since the attack, four individuals have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for possibly being connected to the terrorist, and have been subsequently released. Two separate locations linked to the attacker in Liverpool have been cordoned off from the public, and searched for evidence. “Significant items” were found at one of these locations, and destroyed in a controlled explosion. This has been the second terror attack in the UK in the last month, following the murder of MP, Sir David Amess, suggesting that the country may be seeing a rise in terror attacks.
Upon increasing the terror threat level in the UK, Priti Patel stated that “the incident has been declared as a terrorist incident, the police have now declared that.” She said that the reasoning behind the increase in terror threat level is “because what we saw yesterday is the second incident in a month… of course that means we continue to work with our world class security, intelligence and policing services.” The Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North West, Russ Jackson, stated that despite knowing the identity of the attacker, and confirming the incident as a terrorist attack, the reasoning behind the attack is still “yet to be understood.”
While the increased terror threat level indicates that the UK intends to put more effort into combating terrorism in the country, it is unclear exactly how this will be accomplished. While it will no doubt help deal with individual terror threats in the future, it is unlikely to address the problem that the UK has with terrorism in a broader sense. It is important to try and stop terror attacks that may happen. However, it is just as important to try and address the motivations that potential terrorists have when they plan an attack. While the motivations for the attack in Liverpool last week are unknown as of yet, it is often the case that those who attack society in such a way, do so because they do not feel there is a place in society for them. An effort to create a more welcoming society may reduce the incidence of attacks like these.
The last time the terror threat level was this high in the UK was in February of this year, and the last time it was higher than this was in 2017. Since 2017, terror attacks have decreased, until now, when there have been two in the space of a month. There is no clear reason for this increase, yet many suspect it could be due to the end of COVID-19 lockdowns in the country, as local areas become more populated.
Is this increase in terror attacks in the UK an indication that the country is heading back to 2017 levels? Whether it is or not, national and international terrorism is still an issue that global leaders are failing to properly address, and it will continue to take the lives of innocent people. Whilst the Security Service and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office in the UK have been successful at stopping terror attacks, a successful holistic plan has not been made to deal with the reasons why people become terrorists in the first place.