UK security on high alert after Brussels terror attacks

Brussels honours victims of the attack. Picture: AFP/Getty
Brussels honours victims of the attack. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Security has been stepped up at the UK’s borders amid warnings that Britons should avoid all but essential travel to the Belgian capital.

Home Secretary Theresa May said a number of precautionary measures had been taken “to ensure public safety and provide public reassurance” following the attacks in Brussels, which killed more than 30 people and left scores more injured.

Police Scotland said it had reviewed security and safety arrangements, but said there was no specific threat of impending attacks.

Mrs May said the UK Border Force was carrying out more intensive checks, including more vehicle searches and the use of dogs.

Police forces have already confirmed that additional officers have been deployed to patrol at key locations and on the transport network.

The Home Secretary told the Commons home affairs committee: “We stand together against the terrorists and they will not win.”

British and Belgian authorities work closely on security matters and “share intelligence routinely”, she said, adding that, after the attacks in Paris in November, police and intelligence service resources were deployed to Belgium in support of the investigations into the attackers which resulted in the arrest of fugitive Salah Abdeslam last week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman later confirmed that police and intelligence agencies have already been in touch with their Belgian counterparts and a team of specialist police officers are being sent to the city to assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the threat level in the UK remains under constant review but has not changed, Ms May told the committee.

It currently stands at severe, indicating that an attack is seen as “highly likely”.

The Home Secretary said: “I would urge everyone to remain alert but not alarmed.”

She added: “I would like to reassure this committee and the public that while we will know more in the coming days and hours, we are doing everything we can to help the Belgian authorities, to work with our international partners and of course to keep people in this country safe and secure.”

Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said Police Scotland had reviewed its own security arrangements following the Belgian attacks.

He said: “This is something we would do as a matter of course after such events and it is not in relation to any specific information or intelligence.

“Police Scotland is committed to ensuring all communities across the country are as safe as they can be and I would ask the public, ­especially around crowded places and transport hubs, to remain vigilant and alert, but not alarmed. If you suspect something is wrong, then report it to the police.

“I would stress that there is no specific information which suggests Scotland is at risk of attack. However, the UK threat level remains at ‘severe’ and our communities are not immune from the threat posed by terrorists. That’s why I would encourage people to go about their business as normal but remain vigilant.”

The Foreign Office yesterday updated its travel advice for Belgium, advising against all but essential travel to Brussels in line with the advice issued by the Belgium authorities. It also issued an emergency number for those worried a relative may have been affected – 020 7008 0000.

After chairing a 40-minute meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “These were attacks in Belgium. They could just as well be attacks in Britain or France or Germany or elsewhere in Europe and we need to stand together against these appalling terrorists and make sure they can never win.

“I have made sure that we have offered every support to the Belgian security and policing and intelligence forces.”

Britain was doing “everything we can to enhance our own security”, with the police presence being reinforced at ports, airports, underground stations and international railway stations, he said.

“These are difficult times, these are appalling terrorists. But we will stand together to do everything we can to stop them and to make sure that although they attack our way of life and attack us because of who we are, we will never let them win.”

Britain’s overall threat level had not been raised at this stage from “severe”, he said, but Cobra would continue to meet to assess any new threats.