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FLASH ALERT: HIGH RISK OF CONTINUED TERRORIST ACTIVITY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Team: Austin Straniere, Casey Mager, Federica Calissano, Martyna Dobrowolska, Pètra van de Gevel, Vanessa Coimbra, Zarah Sheikh, EUCOM; Lucy Game, EXTREMISM Team

Jason Bratcher, Sachin Khunte, Editors; Cassandra Townsend, Senior Editor

Week of: Monday, November 15, 2021


Police checkpoint and Rapid Relief Unit outside of Liverpool Women’s Hospital[1]


The Counterterrorism Group’s (CTG) EUCOM Team is issuing a FLASH ALERT for the general public, law enforcement, and security forces in Liverpool, England extending to the United Kingdom (UK) following a fatal car explosion outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. This incident is likely part of a larger surge of terrorist threats, likely prompted by the upcoming holiday season. With the UK’s terror threat level being raised to severe, it is VERY LIKELY another attack will occur soon in Liverpool and/or in the UK.


CTG is on HIGH alert following the attack, which was later declared a terror incident by British Police.[2] Individuals are advised to practice extra caution, remain vigilant, and avoid visiting the affected area around the hospital. Individuals should avoid crowded places and report any suspicious activity or known information on the incident to the British Police.


On Sunday, November 14, 2021, a taxi exploded at a drop-off zone near the entrance of Liverpool Women’s Hospital, killing the passenger and injuring the driver, a local resident.[3] Authorities believe the passenger, Emad al Swealmeen, detonated an Improvised Explosive Device. Four men were initially arrested in Liverpool under the Terrorism Act following the attack; all have since been released from police custody.[4] The police are exploring possible links to Remembrance Day, the United Kingdom’s (UK) commemoration to the end of World War I and all who lost their lives.[5] The explosion occurred just before 0600 EST (1100 Local Time) as the national two-minute observation of silence was due to begin.[6] At the time of the attack, Remembrance Day services were taking place at the Anglican Cathedral, which is less than one mile from Liverpool Women’s Hospital.[7]


Rutland Avenue, the area the taxi picked up Swealmeen in, is now under lockdown with some residents evacuated amid a police investigation.[8] The perpetrator was not on any MI5 watchlist.[9] England’s terror threat level has been raised from ‘’substantial’’ to ‘’severe’’ by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) following the hospital blast and the stabbing of Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Sir David Amess in October, 2021.[10] There is an even chance the Liverpool Cathedral could have been the original target of this attack, since more than 1,200 military personnel, veterans, and relatives of fallen soldiers were present at the services at the Anglican Cathedral, likely making the crowd a target.[11] The risk of future attacks on Remembrance Day's symbolic sites across the UK and Ireland is HIGH since traditionally, Remembrance Day celebrations are heavily attended across the commonwealth.[12] Individuals motivated to disrupt national celebrations will likely attack these locations in the upcoming days, which likely demonstrates resentment towards England and other Western countries. Other attacks have occurred on Remembrance Day at symbolic locations, such as the 1987 bombing carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.[13] Although the IRA's motivations were likely unrelated to this attack’s motivation, the intention was to undermine the event's significance, due to internal resentment towards England. The Liverpool Women's Hospital attack is almost certainly an attempt to increase insecurity among Western countries, particularly the UK. The explosion in Liverpool happened exactly one month after MP Amess was fatally stabbed in Essex, an attack that was also declared a terrorist incident. Both incidents are likely connected due to the timing of the attacks. In both cases, the target seems to be of symbolic value; Sir Amess was a member of the British Parliament and an important public figure, and the explosion in front of the hospital can be seen as an indirect attack on the security and health of medical personnel and patients. It is likely a future attack will be aimed at a target with symbolic value given its potential to decrease the citizens’ feeling of security and safety. Another attack will likely occur in the next month in a similar setting, such as hospitals, remembrance services, and celebratory gatherings; given the similarities between MP Amess’ stabbing and the Liverpool explosion, a pattern may develop over the next month. Upcoming events in Liverpool, such as concerts at M&S Bank Arena and Liverpool Philharmonic, as well as the Christmas Market at St. George’s Hall, will likely be potential targets of a terrorist attack, as crowds are expected. Future attacks will likely occur in London, England’s capital city. On Friday, November 19, 2021, London’s annual Winter Wonderland, a historic Christmas amusement park, will open in Hyde Park.[14] This event could likely become a target for terrorist attacks, as it will almost certainly attract thousands of people daily, and it is unlikely there will be strong security checks at the entrance or within the park. In previous years, security checkpoints have been placed at the park’s main entrances, not accounting for other ways to enter the park, leaving an avenue for unmonitored arrival to the event. Furthermore, due to long lines at that park’s main entrance, security officials often rush bag checks to avoid creating long waiting times.[15] If the attacks have an anti-Western sentiment, London’s Winter Wonderland will very likely be targeted, as it celebrates Christmas, a Christian holiday. Liverpool’s Christmas Markets will likely be targeted by violent attackers, as thousands of individuals will likely crowd there. Terrorists will likely target this location as it will be crowded during the holiday season. To enhance security, the Christmas Markets and similar events should have an increased police presence and police activities could involve checking individuals considered to be acting suspiciously and searching bags for weapons. To increase the security of similar events, organizers should place restrictions on bag allowances for visitors or make the event ticketed so that visitors are more easily identifiable. CTG assesses the main targets for future attacks will likely be crowded locations, such as hospitals, worship sites, and university campuses, where a large number of individuals will almost certainly increase the number of casualties. The attacker, Emad al Swealmeen, has been confirmed as originating from Middle Eastern descent; the risk of retaliatory violence against individuals from the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, as well as against migrant communities, will likely increase in response to this information.[16] Individuals with extremist and nationalist ideologies will likely verbally and physically attack migrants and individuals from the MENA region, as they will likely be assumed to be a threat and involved in terrorist activities. It is likely that, due to Swealmeen’s heritage, grievances regarding the explosion in Liverpool will increase the risk of violence against mosques in the area. Security services and local police will likely need to be prepared to mitigate this threat and minimize aggravations within the affected community. The EUCOM Team recommends that UK law enforcement and citizens remain alert and vigilant. Following the fatal stabbing of MP Amess, the explosion in Liverpool is the second violent incident within the past month, making the threat level in England VERY HIGH. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are advised to continue sharing relevant information about past attacks. This may require additional collaboration between security agencies, cybersecurity professionals, and open-source investigators to monitor news and social media, as future attacks are likely to be anticipated on the Internet. The EUCOM Team further advises citizens to avoid attending public gatherings or visiting crowded places, including any upcoming holiday gatherings, concerts, and populated venues.

The EUCOM Team at CTG continues to monitor developments through local and international media, and is closely monitoring social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit to analyze ongoing events and predict future attacks. CTG’s EUCOM Team has utilized HUMINT with analysts on the ground, providing first-hand accounts of the scene. Through the Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) CTG continuously tracks all violent events to provide current fact-based analysis. Furthermore, the EUCOM team continues to report violent situations and encounters across Europe.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work to counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1] CTG Intern Lucy Game, Liverpool, November 15, 2021

[2] Liverpool blast declared terror incident - police say passenger took explosive device into taxi, Sky News, November 2021, https://news.sky.com/story/liverpool-explosion-terror-incident-declared-over-blast-as-police-make-fourth-arrest-12469280

[3] Liverpool Women's Hospital explosion: Terror threat level raised to 'severe', BBC News, November 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-59291095

[4] Ibid

[5] Remembrance Day: What is it?, BBC News, November 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/15492752

[6] Liverpool explosion: Three arrested under Terrorism Act after car blast at hospital, BBC News, November 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-59285235

[7] Liverpool Women's Hospital taxi explosion: 'homemade' bomb used in terrorist incident, The National News, November 2021, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/uk-news/2021/11/15/liverpool-womens-hospital-taxi-explosion-homemade-bomb-used-in-terrorist-incident/

[8] Homes evacuated amid major armed police operation near Sefton Park, Liverpool Echo, November 2021, https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/residents-evacuated-homes-amid-major-22165366

[9] ​​Liverpool hospital attack declared act of terror as man killed in blast is named, The Guardian, November 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/15/liverpool-hospital-attack-was-suspected-suicide-bombing

[10] Liverpool explosion: UK terror threat level raised to 'severe' following hospital blast - attack now 'highly likely', Sky News, November 2021, https://news.sky.com/story/liverpool-explosion-uk-terror-threat-level-raised-to-severe-following-hospital-blast-attack-now-highly-likely-12469375

[11] Ibid

[12] Remembrance Day: What is it?, BBC News, November 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/15492752

[13] Enniskillen Poppy Day bomb memorial unveiled, BBC News, November 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41899718

[14] When does Winter Wonderland open?, The Independent, November 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/winter-wonderland-london-dates-tickets-b1953687.html

[15] Safety, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, November 202​​1, https://hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/safety/

[16] Liverpool Terror Attack: Emad Al Swealmeen named as man killed in explosion, GB News, November 2021, https://www.gbnews.uk/news/liverpool-terror-attack-emad-al-swealmeen-named-as-man-killed-in-explosion/159009

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