New York defiant in face of ISIS video threat

New York police officers patrol in Times Square on Nov 19, 2015.
New York police officers patrol in Times Square on Nov 19, 2015.AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A defiant New York on Thursday stared down an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda video threatening the city as White House hopeful Hillary Clinton called for a US-led global fight to defeat the extremists.

Less than a week after attacks killed 129 people in Paris, an ISIS video showed a man preparing a suicide vest and fingering its trigger, interlaced with footage of New York's Times and Herald Squares.

Police immediately insisted there was "no current or specific threat," and Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton went to Times Square in the middle of the night to reassure residents.

"The people of New York City will not be intimidated," de Blasio told reporters beneath the bright lights of the square, in the heart of New York's entertainment district.

"We understand it is the goal of terrorists to intimidate and disrupt our democratic society. We will not submit to their wishes," he added.

"There is no specific and credible threat against New York City. So it's crucial that people go about their normal business."

 

New York has the largest police force in the country, with 35,000 officers. By chance, this week also saw the first deployment of 100 extra rapid reaction counterterrorism officers out of a promised 500.

Bratton said the video itself was "nothing new."

"We believe it's a compilation of videos going back to one in August that was directed against Germany, one in October directed against Israel, and 19 seconds of about a five-and-a-half minute video released today had scenes of New York," he explained.

As America's largest city, entertainment and financial capital, New York is on a near-constant state of alert, particularly since the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks killed more than 2,700 at the Twin Towers.

Since then, more than 20 plots have been thwarted, including four in the last two years, said counterterrorism chief John Miller.

The city is preparing to welcome an influx of millions of visitors during the busy holiday season, which traditionally opens with the Thanksgiving Parade next Thursday.

"We understand that we are a terrorist target," Bratton said.

"But do not be afraid. The NYPD will protect you... We will not be intimidated, and we will not live in fear."

Security was stepped up immediately after the Paris attacks and New York sent investigators to France to learn what they can about the attacks, and to enhance its own counterterrorism operations.

Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate in the 2016 race for the White House, said New York's resilience in the face of terror led her to unveil in the city her plans for a sweeping war against ISIS.

The former New York state senator called for a US-led global fight to defeat the extremist group in the Middle East, shut down its flow of fighters, propaganda and weapons to the West, and to counter radical jihadism in general.

It would require every pillar of American power - military, diplomacy and economic development - she said, calling on Arab, European and regional allies, including Turkey, to do more.

"The entire world must be part of this fight, but we must lead it," she told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York.

Clinton called for a more effective and broader US-led coalition to intensify air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, an intelligence surge and a no-fly zone to stop the Syrian regime bombing civilians.

The relatively hawkish Clinton stopped short of calling for a large-scale US military deployment on the ground, instead demanding greater support for local and regional ground forces.

After the 9/11 attacks, she said the United States made a lot of progress in breaking down bureaucratic barriers to information sharing, but Europe was "way behind."

"The United States must work with Europe to dramatically and immediately improve intelligence sharing and counterterrorism coordination," Clinton said.