Police in Britain put on severe terror alert after Belgian arrests

Police patrols of Jewish communities in Britain to be stepped up amid ‘heightened concern’ about risk of attack

US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron at a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron at a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House on Friday. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

Police across Britain have been put on high alert warning that they may be targeted in terror attacks following the foiled assault on officers in Belgium this week by Islamists with links to Syria.

The threat against police has been raised to severe, the highest level yet, with police chiefs considering the more widespread deployment of Taser stun guns as an additional security measure.

Police patrols of Jewish communities in Britain are also to be stepped up amid “heightened concern” about the risk of an attack following the Paris atrocity, Britain’s top counter-terror officer said. Extra security measures will be taken at Jewish schools.

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“The government has a very strong relationship with the Jewish community, it talks to them regularly about these issues. We have to be incredibly vigilant and look at all of these risks, particularly risks to police officers themselves, and take every action that we can.”

The plans to more widely deploy Tasers, which deliver electric shocks, are at an early stage but could see more officers trained to use the weapons out on patrol.

British police are mostly unarmed, unlike colleagues in France and Belgium, and firearms are comparatively rare on Britain’s streets.

It is thought terrorists would be more likely to use knives or machetes to attack an officer, rather than guns, in a rerun of the gruesome attack on soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013 near his barracks in Woolwich, south London.

Other measures open to police chiefs in the 44 forces that patrol the streets across England and Wales include many more officers going out in pairs, or “proximity” patrols, where colleagues are never out of sight of each other.

Last weekend Islamic State propaganda renewed a call for followers to attack the police. New York City police has already issued urgent safety advice to officers to watch the hands of anyone approaching them, and other measures.

The alert to police in Britain was announced by the national policing lead for counter-terrorism, assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, who said: “We are also considering what further measures we might put in place to enhance the security of police officers, given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world.

“Chief constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers from such attacks.”

Mr Rowley said there would be extra patrols in Jewish areas amid fears they will be targeted as were shoppers in a kosher shop in Paris last Friday, leaving four people dead.

Holocaust memorial

Posters advertising a Holocaust memorial event in east London were daubed yesterday with graffiti including the words “liars” and “killers”.

The Metropolitan Police said the incidents, which took place in Stratford, were being listed as a “hate crime” and said officers in Newham were investigating.

Mr Rowley added: “The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. We are seeing continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere.”