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Britain raises terror threat level to severe

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a news conference at 10 Downing Street in central London on Friday.

PAUL HACKETT/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a news conference at 10 Downing Street in central London on Friday.

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron says he’ll introduce new laws to combat terror suspects, pledging to seize passports to fight what he described as an extremist threat more dangerous than any previously seen.

Cameron’s remarks came just after authorities on Friday raised the terror threat level to severe, the second highest level. The decision was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent.

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Cameron told reporters that while the Taliban facilitated Al Qaeda terrorism, the Islamic State group is ‘‘effectively a state run by terrorists.’’

‘‘We could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member,’’ he said.

Home Secretary Theresa Mays said on Friday that the decision to raise the threat level was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but that there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East.

‘‘We face a real and serious threat in the UK from international terrorism,’’ she said. ‘‘I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.’’

May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government. ‘‘Severe’’ is the second-highest of five levels.

British police have appealed to the public to help identify aspiring terrorists after the killing of an American journalist focused attention on extremism in the UK.

The involvement of a person of British nationality in James Foley’s beheading underscored the need to identify those who might travel abroad to fight or are at risk of being radicalized.

Authorities say around 70 arrests have been made in the first half of the year for a variety of offenses, including fundraising, preparing for terrorism acts and traveling abroad for terrorist training. The police say such arrests are being made at a rate five times greater than 2013.

The last time the rate was raised to severe was in September 2010 — in response to the attempt to detonate a bomb on a US passenger plane over Detroit. It was last at the highest level, or critical, in June 2007, after a car on fire was driven into the Glasgow Airport terminal building and — separately — two devices were found in cars in central London.

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