London terror attacks: Questions raised about intelligence failure after decision to lower threat level

'There will also be demands to know ... why the terrorism assessment was reduced'

Kim Sengupta
Defence Editor
Sunday 04 June 2017 02:59
London terror attack: What we know so far

Questions will be asked following the latest terrorist attacks in London about the decision by Theresa May’s government to reduce the threat warning from the highest category after the Manchester murders.

The downgrading of assessment from critical to severe and removing troops from the streets will also lead to deep concern that there has been a failure of intelligence.

Witnesses claimed that 10 to 15 minutes elapsed before armed police arrived at the scene and also that unarmed community police officers appeared to be helpless to act as the stabbing sprees started. The Metropolitan Police later said that armed officers shot the three suspects dead eight minutes after the first emergency call.

The investigation at this stage is being led by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command rather than MI5. Although details about the attacks will emerge over the coming days, security sources say that very early indications are that they may have been organised at short notice.

Shots fired near the scenes of the attacks were, it is believed, were by the armed police as they killed three suspects, rather than terrorists armed with guns.

Sounds of blasts reported by people in the area were controlled explosions, say security sources.

London Bridge and Borough Market incidents are 'terror attacks'

Security officials also stated that the police are likely to be in a position to carry out raids on Sunday as the identities of the attackers are likely to be known within few hours.

They refused to comment on whether mobile telephones belonging to suspects were found at the scene. One Whitehall source said: “There will also be demands to know by tomorrow [Sunday] why the terrorism assessment was reduced, but that was the decision of JTAC ( Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre) on available intelligence.”

An emergency meeting of the Cabinet’s Cobra committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, will reassess the threat level with the strong possibility that it will be raised again to the highest level.