Police with machine guns to secure Berlin New Year fest

German police standing guard at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin ahead of the upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations.
German police standing guard at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin ahead of the upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - German authorities are beefing up security for New Year's eve celebrations in Berlin on Saturday (Dec 31) after last week's truck attack, deploying police with machine guns and securing the festive zone around the Brandenburg Gate with concrete slabs.

"This year, what's new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armoured vehicles at the entrances" of the celebration zone, a Berlin police spokesman said.

While the number of police officers deployed will remain close to last year's figure of around 1,000, this year, "at least some of them will be standing there with machine guns", he added.

Germany had already put in place heightened security measures during last year's celebrations, following the Nov 13 attack in Paris.

Revellers will once again not be allowed to bring in backpacks or large bags.

All forms of pyrotechnics and potentially dangerous objects such as glass bottles will also be banned at this year's event where hundreds of thousands of people are expected.

Questions surrounding security are high on the agenda after the Dec 19 attack, when Tunisian national Anis Amri allegedly hijacked a truck and drove it into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.

Amri, 24, went on the run and was the focus of a four-day manhunt before being shot dead by police in Milan, northern Italy, after opening fire first.

The Berlin rampage was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which released a video last Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, police officers armed with machine guns were seen patrolling the streets in downtown Berlin.