World prepares to welcome New Year despite terror fears

World prepares to welcome New Year despite terror fears
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House in a 9pm display before the midnight fireworks which will usher in the New Year in Australia's largest city.

Sydney - Brussels scraps celebration plans over militant attack fears, countries tighten security.



By Agencies

Published: Thu 31 Dec 2015, 2:46 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Jan 2016, 2:18 AM

Global New Year's Eve festivities are set to begin under tightened security, with Brussels scrapping celebrations as fears of militant threats cast a pall, just weeks after brutal attacks in Paris.
Australian officials encouraged revellers to enjoy the evening and assured that thousands of extra police would be out patrolling the major cities.
"Don't change your way of life," Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle recently urged residents of the nation's second-largest city, expected to gather by the hundreds of thousands despite blistering temperatures to watch nearly 11 tonnes of fireworks light up the sky. "Don't let events from around the world challenge the way that we live."
Australia's biggest city, Sydney, traditionally the first to host a major event to ring in the New Year, held its 9pm (1000 GMT) family fireworks, with pyrotechnics exploding over the harbour ahead of the main show at midnight.
Crowds thronged to vantage points to see the displays which are expected to draw one million people, ahead of the chimes of midnight moving across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas.
New Year's Eve is Japan's biggest holiday, and millions crammed into trains to flee the cities for their hometowns to slurp down bowls of noodles, symbolising longevity, while watching the annual Red and White NHK song competition. As midnight approaches, families bundle up for visits to neighbourhood temples, where the ritual ringing of huge bronze bells reverberates through the chill.
South Koreans mark New Year's Eve with traditional bell ringing ceremonies, fireworks and outdoor music and dance performances. Thousands of people, including North Korean refugees, are expected to gather at a town near the border with rival North Korea to watch one of the ceremonies and wish for peaceful Korean unification.
Hotels and restaurants in and around New Delhi have been advertising grand party plans with live bands, dancing and plenty of drinks.
With security being a concern, police and anti-terror squads on Tuesday conducted mock terror-attack drills at a crowded shopping mall and food court. Witnesses, however, were unimpressed. Mona Arthur, a Delhi journalist who was in the mall at the time, dubbed the exercise a "mockery of a mock drill."
Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and other Asian cities may rival Sydney's pyrotechnic splash, but Brunei offers a sober evening after banning Christmas in a shift to hardline Islamic law.
Jakarta remains on high alert after anti-terror police foiled detailed plans for an alleged New Year suicide attack in the Indonesian capital.
At the heart of Europe, annual festivities and fireworks in Brussels have been cancelled as the Belgian capital - home to Nato and the European Union - remains on high alert.
"It's better not to take any risks," mayor Yvan Mayeur said on Wednesday after police arrested two people suspected of plotting to launch attacks during the festivities at Brussels landmarks.
The French capital, still reeling from the November 13 slaughter of 130 people, has also cancelled its fireworks display.
But authorities agreed France's biggest public gathering since the attacks can go ahead on the Champs Elysees avenue, with bolstered security.
"The people of Paris and France need this symbolic passage into the New Year," said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.
"After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world," she told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.
In Turkey, police have detained two Daesh suspects allegedly planning to stage attacks in the centre of Ankara which is expected to be packed on New Year's Eve.
Meanwhile, in Moscow police will for the first time close off Red Square where tens of thousands of revellers traditionally gather.
"It's no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists," Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said recently.
In Britain, Scotland Yard said there will be around 3,000 officers across central London in what is reported to be an unprecedented anti-terror security effort.
"Our plans are purely precautionary and not as a result of any specific intelligence," said Superintendent Jo Edwards, spokeswoman for Scotland Yard.
Fireworks were banned in towns and cities across Italy, in some cases because of a recent spike in air pollution but also because of fears that, in the current climate, sudden loud bangs could cause crowds to panic.
The number of police on duty in Italy has been increased by 30 per cent compared to last year although the Interior Ministry stressed: "There has been no specific alert."
In Madrid, thousands of people will flock to Puerta del Sol square, however police will limit the number allowed in to just 25,000.
Berliners will do better with about a million expected at the Brandenburg Gate for a free mega-street party.
Cairo meanwhile is trying desperately to attract tourists to bolster the economy.
The government is staging celebrations in front of the pyramids near the Egyptian capital, with ambassadors, artists and intellectuals all invited.
On the nearby Gaza Strip, Hamas has banned public New Year's Eve parties.
Police spokesman Ayman Al Batinji said such celebrations were "incompatible with our customs, traditions, values and the teachings of our religion".
In stark contrast, Sierra Leone's capital Freetown is hoping to reclaim its mantle as host of the best beach parties in Africa after Ebola scared people away.
The city of 1.2 million was deserted 12 months ago during the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
"This New Year's Eve I am going to dance and party until the cock crows," said 35-year-old Franklyn Smith.
Celebrations away from the palm-fringed beaches will be muted, however, as people remember almost 4,000 victims of the epidemic.
In the Philippines, stray bullets and exploding firecrackers killed one person and injured almost 200 others as the country plunged into its annual chaotic revelry.
In New York, despite a pledge of tight security for Times Square, another million people are expected to turn out to see the ball descend.
This year's show includes performances by artists Demi Lovato, Daya and Jessie J.
AFP

New Year's Eve fireworks illuminate Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the traditional early family fireworks show held before the main midnight event.
New Year's Eve fireworks illuminate Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the traditional early family fireworks show held before the main midnight event.
A woman walks past a New Year's decoration in central Moscow, Russia.
A woman walks past a New Year's decoration in central Moscow, Russia.
Police officers are being deployed to secure New Year celebrations in Bali, Indonesia.
Police officers are being deployed to secure New Year celebrations in Bali, Indonesia.
A man gets a haircut depicting 2016 to welcome the New Year at a barbershop in Ahmedabad, India.
A man gets a haircut depicting 2016 to welcome the New Year at a barbershop in Ahmedabad, India.

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