Brussels and Paris scrap fireworks over terror fears

A fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House in a 9pm show before the midnight fireworks that will usher in the new year in Australia's largest city. Thousands gathered at Sydney Harbour yesterday to be among the first in the world to usher in 201
Security has been tightened at places such as the Grand Place (above) in Brussels after the Belgian authorities arrested two people earlier this week on suspicion of preparing attacks on ''emblematic sites'' in Brussels on New Year's Eve.PHOTO: REUTERS
A fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House in a 9pm show before the midnight fireworks that will usher in the new year in Australia's largest city. Thousands gathered at Sydney Harbour yesterday to be among the first in the world to usher in 201
A fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House in a 9pm show before the midnight fireworks that will usher in the new year in Australia's largest city. Thousands gathered at Sydney Harbour yesterday to be among the first in the world to usher in 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Traditional Korean coin purses, known as ''bokjumeoni'', and rice strainers, or ''bokjori'', hanging from trees in Incheon, South Korea, yesterday. Koreans believe that hanging the items at the beginning of a new year brings good fortune.
Traditional Korean coin purses, known as ''bokjumeoni'', and rice strainers, or ''bokjori'', hanging from trees in Incheon, South Korea, yesterday. Koreans believe that hanging the items at the beginning of a new year brings good fortune.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill displaying his new artwork made with vegetables on New Year's Eve in Amritsar, India. A dental hygienist by profession, Mr Gill made the sculpture to wish everyone a prosperous new year.
Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill displaying his new artwork made with vegetables on New Year's Eve in Amritsar, India. A dental hygienist by profession, Mr Gill made the sculpture to wish everyone a prosperous new year. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Plan to attack Belgium's capital revealed; Turkey nabs two ISIS suspects over bomb plot

BRUSSELS/ANKARA • Brussels and Paris cancelled New Year's Eve fireworks owing to terrorism fears as Europe prepared to see in 2016 under tight security, while in Turkey, police detained two Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspects over a plot to attack Ankara.

The Belgian authorities said a fireworks display and festivities that drew 100,000 people the previous year would not go ahead, after revealing an alleged militant plot to attack Belgium's capital - also home to the headquarters of the European Union and Nato - during the holiday.

Yesterday's decision came a day after two people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks on "emblematic sites" in Brussels during the celebrations, and after another man was questioned over links to November's Paris attacks.

"Unfortunately, we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow (Thursday) evening," Mayor Yvan Mayeur told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. "It's better not to take any risks."

In Paris, where 130 people were killed by militants on Nov 13, the annual fireworks display on the Champs-Elysees has been called off, and 11,000 police, soldiers and firefighters will patrol the capital.

NOT TAKING ANY RISKS

Unfortunately, we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow (Thursday) evening. It's better not to take any risks.

BRUSSELS MAYOR YVAN MAYEUR, on the need to cancel New Year's Eve celebrations owing to terrorism fears

Moscow's Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the new year, was closed on New Year's Eve, while Vienna beefed up security.

In Turkey, officials said two ISIS suspects, reportedly both Turks, were planning to stage suicide bombings in the centre of the capital, Ankara, on New Year's Eve.

Turkey has been on a high security alert since October, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 in the worst attack in the country's modern history.

According to the private NTV television, counter-terrorism police arrested the pair in the Mamak district on the outskirts of the capital, which is home to more than five million people.

"They are suspected of being affiliated with the Islamic State and were planning an attack on the New Year in Ankara," said a Turkish official who asked not to be named.

They were planning to stage an attack in the main Kizilay square, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor's office.

The governor's office said the suspects, identified as M.C. and A.Y., had planned to strike two spots in Kizilay - one outside a big shopping mall and the second in a street packed with pubs.

Police also confiscated a suicide bomb vest, a bomb mechanism with ball bearings and a rucksack with bomb-making materials, the governor's office said.

The alleged plot comes after a police clampdown on suspected Islamists, including last month's arrest of an alleged member of the ISIS group suspected of planning a suicide attack on the US consulate in Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, where 15,000 police will be deployed.

In New York City, where one million people pack into Times Square every year, officials said 6,000 officers, some in plain clothes, would be on hand to watch over celebrations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said security measures would be "more extensive than ever" and include more than 500 policemen trained to prevent terror attacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2016, with the headline 'Brussels and Paris scrap fireworks over terror fears'. Print Edition | Subscribe