World on security alert for the 2016 new year

December 31, 2015 10:30 pm
Authorities taking all precautions to keep festivities terror-free

 

Scotland Yard cancelled all New Year
leave for more than 2000 armed officers – the first time it has taken
such a step. Photo / iStock

The world moved nervously into the new year today with security
tight for public events in many major cities, especially in .
Every
firearms officer in London, for instance, was to be on duty to protect
the New Year celebrations in an unprecedented security operation.
Scotland
Yard cancelled all New Year leave for more than 2000 armed officers –
the first time it has taken such a step – as part of the largest-ever
police mobilisation for the festivities.
It comes after a
“friendly” intelligence agency warned that Islamist fanatics may be
planning a terror attack in a European city – although there was no
specific information to suggest London will be targeted.
Yesterday
Turkey became the latest country to announce the foiling of a holiday
attack plot, detaining two suspected Isis (Islamic State) militants
believed to be planning suicide bombings during New Year celebrations in
Ankara.

“They were caught before they had the opportunity to take action,” said the office of the chief prosecutor of Turkey’s capital.
The
men were detained in a raid on a house in the low-income Mamak
neighbourhood, where police seized a suicide vest armed with a bomb, a
second explosive device that was fortified with ball bearings and metal
sticks and concealed inside a back pack, as well as bomb-making
equipment, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The two men,
Turkish nationals, were being questioned by anti-terrorism police. The
prosecutor’s office said the men had staked out possible locations in
Ankara where they could carry out the attacks.
In Belgium, an
investigation was continuing into what authorities characterised as a
“serious threat” of holiday season attacks directed at police, soldiers
and popular attractions in the capital city of Brussels.
The
arrest of two suspects was announced by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office,
with the seizure of military-style training uniforms, computer
equipment and propaganda materials from Isis. No weapons or explosives
were found.
Brussels officials were sufficiently worried about
the remaining risks that Mayor Yvane Mayeur announced that a New Year’s
fireworks display and related festivities in the city centre were
cancelled.
Mayeur told RTBF French-language television that
100,000 people turned out a year ago but that in current circumstances
“we can’t guarantee that we can check everyone”.
Belgium has been
one of Europe’s leading recruiting grounds for foreign jihadi fighters,
and was home to four of the November 13 attackers who killed 130 people
in Paris, including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and
fugitive Salah Abdeslam. Nine other people have been arrested in Belgium
in investigations linked to the Paris attacks, which were claimed by
Isis.
Yesterday, another police search linked to the Paris
attacks was carried out in the Molenbeek area of Brussels, and a person
detained for questioning, said Thierry Werts, a spokesman for the
Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
In France, authorities were also
clearly preparing for a possible worst-case New Year’s scenario. About
60,000 police and troops were to be deployed throughout the country
today. “The same troops who used to be in Mali, Chad, French Guyana or
the Central African Republic are now ensuring the protection of French
people,” said Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
A previously
scheduled New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Paris has been cancelled;
instead, there was to be a five-minute video display at the Arc de
Triomphe that, in Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s words, is aimed at “sending the
world the message that Paris is standing, proud of its lifestyle and
living together”.
In Morocco, officials have doubled down on
security ahead of New Year’s festivities as intelligence services play a
central role in Europe’s effort to uncover extremist threats. Armed
security patrols could be seen patrolling major sites, from churches to
museums, in the capital city of Rabat and elsewhere. Popular nightlife
spots have boosted security with systematic bag checks.
In the
United States, officials in Las Vegas urged revellers to leave bags,
backpacks and strollers at home . It’s not the first time such a request
has been made but following the deadly attacks in Paris and San
Bernadino, California, it’s getting extra emphasis.

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