The British government raised the terror threat alert level in Northern Ireland to “severe” on Tuesday. on the eve of a planned visit by the US president, Joe Bidento that region on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the peace agreement.
The threat of an attack has been raised from “substantial” to “severe” by the internal intelligence service MI5, meaning that an attack is “highly probable”, said the British minister for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris.
He Good Friday Peace Agreement 1998 ended three decades of conflict between Catholic republicans and Protestant unionists which, with the involvement of the British army, left more than 3,600 dead.
“However, a small number of people remain determined to harm our communities through politically motivated acts of violence,” Heaton-Harris told Parliament.
And he urged Britons to “remain vigilant but not be alarmed” by the increased threat level, weeks after a Northern Irish policeman was seriously wounded by a gunshot in front of his son.
Police suspect the New IRA, a dissident Republican faction, which has admitted responsibility for two attacks in recent years. In April 2021, a bomb was found under the car of a policewoman in front of her house.
“The political future of Northern Ireland depends on the democratic will of the people and not on the violent actions of a few,” Heaton-Harris told lawmakers.
The minister did not establish any link to Biden’s trip, who intends to visit the Republic of Ireland and the British region of Northern Ireland in early April to mark 25 years of peace.
“The anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement gives us an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made and the opportunities that lie ahead,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in Parliament.
For Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), MI5’s announcement is “bad news”. “I look forward to the day when the threat level is removed, but to get to that point the community needs to stand with the police and show that there is no room for terrorism in Northern Ireland in 2023,” he stated.
For her part, Michelle O’Neill, the Northern Irish leader of Sinn Fein, a former political arm of the dismantled armed group IRA, which won the last regional elections, stated that “there is no place or space for paramilitary groups.” “They must go,” she tweeted.
(With information from AFP)
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