The British military has been alerted and has replaced the police in several key sites in Britain as the UK government beefs up security and prepares for another terrorist attack. This move, after the bombing in Manchester earlier this week after an Ariana Grande concert, brings the threat level to their highest level (Critical), in the UK.

The move to bring in the troops will allow the police to step up patrols in the areas surrounding the key areas of Britain as Europe reels from yet another terrorist attack by followers of the Islamic State.

Behind the uneasy calm lay recognition that something important had shifted. Not just in this city — the latest in Britain to be bludgeoned by terrorism — but across the country, people awoke to a frightening new reality. Another attack could be imminent, Prime Minister Theresa May had warned on Tuesday night, as she put the country on the highest possible alert, raising the threat level from severe to critical.

The move meant that troops would be deployed to buttress police activity, part of a plan known as Operation Temperer. May said members of the armed forces would replace authorities “guarding key sites,” freeing police officers to step up patrols. She suggested that members of the military may also be seen guarding major events, such as concerts and sports matches.

The extent of the deployment was not immediately clear. May emphasized that all troops would remain under the command of regular police.

The announcement underscored not just the severity of the attack, the deadliest in Britain in more than a decade, but also outstanding security concerns as investigators worked to determine whether Salman Abedi, the man suspected of detonating a homemade explosive outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena late Monday, had acted alone or with accomplices. On Wednesday morning, police arrested three men in South Manchester in connection with that investigation.

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May’s decision also showed the depths to which terrorism carried out by adherents of the Islamic State has roiled Western Europe, altering the landscape and rhythms of public life. Soldiers toting assault rifles could prove a jarring addition to the usual law enforcement presence familiar to Britons. British bobbies have mostly forgone firearms in favor of nightsticks.

This isn’t the first time that the British military is patrolling the streets of London. During the 1970s and 80s, the IRA bombings in England forced to the military to act. While most citizens are hoping for a quick return to normal, this latest incident begs the question, is this the new normal?

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