Red alert on New Year's Eve - Europe

Armed police, barricades and bans to deter threats

VIDEO: REUTERS
Security at tourist sites, such as the Colosseum in Rome, is being stepped up during the festive period. Countries across Europe are on high alert to protect revellers as they count down to the new year.
Security at tourist sites, such as the Colosseum in Rome, is being stepped up during the festive period. Countries across Europe are on high alert to protect revellers as they count down to the new year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

European countries are sending out their police and military forces to make sure that New Year's Day is welcomed without a hitch.

With countries like Britain, France, Belgium and Germany all on high alert for terror threats, security agencies are pulling out all the stops to protect revellers as they count down to the new year.

On Tuesday, French police arrested a man in the south-west of the country who was suspected of planning an attack on New Year's Eve.

France has deployed more than 90,000 soldiers and police officers during the festive season to patrol tourist areas, transport hubs and busy streets. It has been on high alert since January last year, after it was struck by a series of terrorist attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In Germany, the authorities are beefing up security for New Year's Eve celebrations in the capital city, after a deadly truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market last week.

 
 
 

"This year, what is new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armoured vehicles at the entrances" of the celebration zone, a Berlin police spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

Security forces with machine guns will guard the celebration areas, though the number of officers on duty is similar to last year's 1,000 or so. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at the celebrations near the 18th century Brandenburg Gate. Backpacks, large bags, glass bottles and pyrotechnics are banned.

Similar bans will be in force in two of Belgium's largest cities, Brussels and Antwerp. In March, the country came under siege from suicide bombers, who killed 32 people and injured more than 300.

Special agents will be stationed at crowded areas with planned large-scale firework displays, a source told Xinhua news agency.

In London, where more than 100,000 people are expected along the banks of the Thames River to catch the New Year's Eve fireworks, thousands of police officers, some armed, will stand by.

Around 3,000 officers will patrol inside and outside the ticketed areas to the firework display.

Security at Christmas markets, tourist areas and train stations have already been tightened.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Armed police, barricades and bans to deter threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe