Countries across the globe have marked New Year’s Eve with celebratory events held amid beefed-up security and all-too-ubiquitous police presence for fear of terrorist plots.
In the Australian city of Sydney, around 1.5 million people packed the streets to watch the spectacular fireworks sending rainbow-colored showers into the midnight sky and lighting up the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Some 2,000 additional police officers were stationed in Australia’s biggest city after a man was arrested for allegedly making online threats to conduct terrorist attacks during the celebrations. Police deployed garbage trucks to block potential attempts to ram vehicles into the crowd, a recent terrorist phenomenon that has hit France and Germany before.
In the French capital of Paris, there were fireworks, with nearly 100,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers deployed across the European country to combat potential terror threats.
France has seen a string of terrorist attack over the past two years, turning the public anxious and the government extra-alert. The deadliest terror attack saw Daesh striking different venues in and around Paris in November 2015, leaving 130 people dead and over 350 others wounded.
In the western German city of Cologne, fireworks were banned around the city’s Cathedral and visitors had their bags searched by security guards.
“I feel very safe. There is police presence everywhere. We just arrived and had to pass a control. We feel very safe. A good feeling, for sure,” said a reveler at the venue.
Some 600 women were sexually assaulted and robbed outside Cologne’s main train station during New Year’s Eve celebrations last year.
Thousands of policemen were also on patrol in other German cities, especially Berlin, following a recent terrorist attack in the capital. A truck was rammed into a Christmas market last week, killing a dozen people.
The British capital of London welcomed the New Year with illuminations on the River Thames and the iconic bongs of the Big Ben.
Crowds gathered to watch about 12,000 fireworks producing 50,000 projectiles that lit up the city as part of a 12-minute display.
Police had deployed 3,000 forces to the streets of London to provide security.
In the Spanish capital, Madrid, heavy vehicles were used to block potential truck attacks on crowds in the city’s central Puerta del Sol Square, with an extra 1,600 police put on duty. Trucks weighing more than 3.5 tones would be banned from areas holding traditional New Year’s parades on January 5.
In the Russian capital, Moscow, people also celebrated the New Year, driving away the dark cold of winter by a vast array of beautiful, warm light installations and displays that captivated visitors and locals.
Under a blanket of security, the sky over Red Square exploded with fireworks, delighting the 6,000 revelers.
In New York, the United States, an estimated one million people converged on Times Square to watch the giant New Year’s Eve ball making its midnight descent, a century-old tradition that marks the beginning of the new year.
Police deployed heavily-armed police teams, snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs, and helicopters in and around the city to secure the festivities.
“Due to the terrorist attacks in Nice, France, and in Berlin, we’ve enhanced our security measures,” said Carlos Gomez, the New York police chief.
Terror in Istanbul
Terror did strike on New Year’s Eve, in the Turkish city of Istanbul, when a gunman dressed as Santa Claus engaged in a rampage at a nightclub in the city, killing at least 39 people and injuring 69 others.
The gunman killed a police officer and a civilian before entering the Reina club, where people were celebrating the New Year in the early hours of Sunday and where he carried out the massacre.
Hundreds of people were present at the club when the attack happened.
The assailant is still on the run.