Thursday, December 31, 2015

World preps for 2016 festivities amid threats

As the world prepares to bid farewell to a tumultuous 2015, security forces have been making their own plans to thwart potential militant attacks taking place on the night.

While most cities will go ahead with their plans to celebrate the new year, authorities in the Belgian capital Brussels took the drastic step of cancelling all public New Year's festivities and fireworks due to the terror threat. On Tuesday, Belgian police arrested two people who were suspected of plotting attacks for the celebrations.

Authorities in New York, where the central Times Square is a popular New Year’s Eve spot for festivities, are prepping “more extensive than ever” security measures, its mayor said on Tuesday.

A total of about 6,000 officers will be on hand, the city’s police chief Bill Bratton told reporters, noting that some would be in plain clothes.

After the Paris attacks on November 13, which killed 130, an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda video broadcast images of New York from Times Square.

“This is the best prepared city in this country to stop terrorism, and people should rest assured that they will be very well protected on New Year’s Eve,” Bill De Blasio said.

Meanwhile, Russia, who began bombing ISIS militants in Syria in September, adopted a more cautious approach.

Moscow’s Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the New Year, will be closed to revelers on the night.

Russia has introduced a raft of tighter security measures since both the Paris attacks and the downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai in late October, killing 224 people.

“It’s not a secret that Moscow is a desired target for an attack by international terrorists,” the Russian capital’s mayor said earlier this month.

Turkey - which this year saw a surge in attacks from what authorities claim is from the ISIS and Kurdish militants – has so far detained two suspected ISIS militants believed to be planning suicide attacks during New Year celebrations in central Ankara.

New Year’s Eve in Paris will see the first large assembly allowed in the French capital since the state of emergency started in November.

Hundreds of thousands of people are once more expected to gather on the Champs-Elysees boulevard to hail the New Year.

But this year’s celebrations – which the French call “Reveillon” will be marked with more “sobriety and remembrance,” the city's mayor told the paper Journal du Dimanche.

Paris police will be on their guard around the Arc de Triomphe, where a standard 20 minute light show has been cut to just 10 minutes to avoid crowds gathering for too long.

In addition to the deadly November attacks, France saw this year begin by attacks on the headquarters of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in early January.

In London, police are planning to deploy 3,000 officers – some of them armed - to patrol the capital’s streets on New Year’s Eve. However, police added that there was no evidence of a specific threat.

Authorities in neighboring Germany believe that militants may use “improvised explosive devices… or firearms” during a potential New Year’s Eve attack.

Police in the capital Berlin have banned fireworks, handbags and backpacks at the celebrations at the city’s Brandenburg Gate.

 [alarabiya.net]

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