Rome steps up security for Vatican's holy year

Investigators at the Leytonstone metro station in east London yesterday after a knife-wielding attacker was arrested in an incident that the police are treating as terrorism. A 56-year-old man suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries while
Investigators at the Leytonstone metro station in east London yesterday after a knife-wielding attacker was arrested in an incident that the police are treating as terrorism. A 56-year-old man suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries while two others had minor injuries. Security officers in front of the Vatican in Rome last Friday. A holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, begins tomorrow and is expected to attract millions of visitors.PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS
Security officers in front of the Vatican in Rome last Friday. A holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, begins tomorrow and is expected to attract millions of visitors.
Security officers in front of the Vatican in Rome last Friday. A holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, begins tomorrow and is expected to attract millions of visitors.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME • From tomorrow - the start of what Pope Francis has declared to be a holy year, or Jubilee of Mercy, an event expected to draw millions of visitors - anyone entering St Peter's Square will be subjected to airport-style screening, including metal detectors and X-ray machines.

In the wake of the Paris attacks last month and Saturday's metro attack in east London, jitters over terrorism have grown.

Rome police chief Nicolo D'Angelo said recently the tighter security measures were a response to a "Jubilee in the time of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)".

The measures will extend beyond the Vatican to much of the city. Two thousand officers will patrol the streets every day, checking not just areas where pilgrims and tourists congregate, but also the capital's sprawling suburbs.

Roman neighbourhoods where nightlife thrives will be monitored, as will the Olympic stadium when matches are played.

Controls will be strengthened at the airports and bus depots serving the city and at Civitavecchia Port, about an hour away, where cruise ships dock.

Police will conduct spot checks on buses and subway cars. Video surveillance will be increased downtown and around major basilicas, which pilgrims visit during the holy year.

Starting tomorrow, the skies over Rome will become a no-fly zone; drone aircraft have also been banned.

"We can't underestimate anything," Mr D'Angelo said of the controls, included in a 220-page plan that draws from Italy's experience in defeating domestic terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s. "We developed this plan over time because the terrorism alarm didn't start yesterday," he added.

Rome attracts more than 16 million tourists each year, according to its tourism department. But the Jubilee is expected to draw many more.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Rome steps up security for Vatican's holy year'. Print Edition | Subscribe