'UK at greatest risk of terrorism'
The UK is now at greater risk from terrorist attacks than any other Western nation, according to research.
The heightened threat in Northern Ireland has resulted in the UK being ranked higher than the US, France, Spain, China and Sri Lanka in the Terrorism Risk Index compiled by respected analysts Maplecroft.
The index, setting out which countries are considered most likely to suffer an attack, was topped by Somalia, followed by Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and the new nation of South Sudan, with Britain in 38th place.
Analysis of the data revealed that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2010-11 shot up by about 15% on the previous year to 11,954, although the number of people killed fell 7% to 14,478. Researchers also found incidents of terrorism in Afghanistan increased by more than 50% to 3,470 in 2010-11, a trend that will concern the Nato coalition as it seeks to reduce troop numbers and hand over security to Afghan forces.
Britain was judged to be at "medium risk" of an attack, and ranked above "low risk" countries including Spain (53rd), the US (61st) and Germany (62nd).
The analysts recorded 26 terrorist attacks in the UK between April 2010 and March 2011 - all but one of them in Northern Ireland - although they did not cause any deaths.
Last year, when the results were calculated using a slightly different methodology, the UK was ranked 47th, behind both the US (33rd) and France (44th).
Maplecroft's analysis noted: "The UK continues to face terrorist threats posed by Islamist militants and dissident Irish republicans.
"The Islamist terrorist threat has both international and domestic elements.
"International Islamist groups such as al Qaida and, specifically, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) present a continuous security risk.
"The growing danger presented to Western states, including the UK, by AQAP is reflected by the increasingly international nature of their attacks," the report added.
"A October 2010 bomb plot in which plastic explosives were loaded into printer toner cartridges and placed on planes destined for the United States is a case in point. Nevertheless, the majority of perpetrated attacks continue to be committed by dissident Irish republican terrorists."
The assessment of the threat from dissident republican and loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland was increased to substantial in September last year, meaning an attack was a "strong possibility".
But last month the UK's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre reduced the international terrorism threat level from severe to substantial.