Red alert on New Year's Eve - Australia

Heightened security after recent anti-terror arrests

A security guard (right) patrols the area outside the Opera House in Sydney on Dec 23, 2016.
A security guard (right) patrols the area outside the Opera House in Sydney on Dec 23, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The police plan to deploy thousands of extra officers across Sydney and Melbourne for this year's New Year's Eve celebrations as well as water and air patrols, as part of heightened security measures following two recent terrorist threats.

The State Government of New South Wales (NSW) yesterday assured Sydney residents that the city is safe after a 40-year-old man was arrested by counter-terrorism police after he allegedly posted threats of potential attacks on New Year's Eve over social media. The man, from Sydney, is not believed to be linked to terror groups, but was arrested at Sydney airport after flying in from London.

With a record 1.5 million people expected to line Sydney's harbour foreshore for the city's famous fireworks display, police have added a range of security measures. Buses and garbage trucks will be used as barricades to prevent a terrorist driving through crowds.

Police have deployed more than 2,000 extra covert and uniformed officers, and will also conduct air, water and mounted horse patrols.

 
 
 

"It is important that we look at all potential risks," said NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. "Vehicle-borne threats are one of those, and we have certainly spent a significant amount of time mitigating any vehicle-borne threats."

In Melbourne, security is also being boosted after an alleged plot by a group of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-inspired terrorists who planned to attack landmarks on Christmas was foiled last week.

However, security agencies in both Sydney and Melbourne have publicly stated that there are no known threats for New Year's Eve.

The recent arrests have done little to dampen enthusiasm for the annual celebrations. Aside from Sydney's crowds, another half-million are due to flock to Melbourne's city centre.

Victoria Police Commander Russell Barrett said revellers will see "an extremely strong police presence" in Melbourne. "They will be supported by all our specialist areas, including water police, mounted branch, our public order management teams and our air wing," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Heightened security after recent anti-terror arrests'. Print Edition | Subscribe