20th Jan 2022

European capitals step up New Year's eve security

  • Official New Year celebrations in Brussels have been called off (Photo: Full-tactical)

Fears of possible terrorist attacks ahead of the New Year celebrations have tightened security in major capitals, with both Brussels and Paris cancelling firework displays.

Despite scrapping its firework show, authorities in the French capital say the public gathering at the Champs Elysee avenue will continue as planned.

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"After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world," said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo on Wednesday (30 December).

Some 11,000 police, soldiers, and firefighters are expected on Paris streets.

The Brussels clamp down goes further, with planned festivities in the centre, like live DJ sets, also cancelled. Bars and restaurants will remain open.

"It's better not to take any risks," mayor Yvan Mayeur told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

The move follows a string of terrorist attacks and foiled plots in the French and Belgian capitals over the past year.

The most recent saw some 130 killed in Paris in mid-November. In August, a heavily armed Frenchman was overpowered on a Thalys train leaving Brussels.

Earlier this week, two suspected members of an Islamic State cell were arrested in Belgium.

No weapons or explosives were found during the Belgian raid.

But Belgium's public prosecutor's office said the arrests revealed "the threat of serious attacks that would have targeted several symbolic places in Brussels and be committed during the end-of-year holidays”.

The Financial Times reports that tourism in Brussels has dropped by a fifth year-on-year in the lead up to Christmas. Restaurant bookings have also been hit.

The heightened tensions are also being felt elsewhere.

Ankara, Berlin, London, Madrid, Moscow, New York, and Vienna have all stepped up security.

Police in Ankara apprehended yesterday two Islamic State suspects. Both are alleged to have planned to stage attacks in the Turkish capital.

London, for its part, is mobilising its largest ever end-of-year armed police patrols, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Some 6,000 will be on duty.

"As with any other major event in the capital our policing response will be appropriate, but I'd stress we've seen nothing to suggest a specific threat to London", said London mayor Boris Johnson.

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