TERROR attacks have cast a pall over New Year celebrations but the world’s capitals, including Manila, defied the threats, saying goodbye to tumultuous 2016 and welcoming 2017 with fireworks and noise-making.
Recent blasts in the Visayas and Mindanao, which left 52 dead, have prompted the police to declare full alert nationwide and deploy 25,000 troops all over Metro Manila.
“Everybody is on alert as ordered by our PNP (Philippine National Police) chief. We are also being accommodated by other police officers who are assigned from different regions here in the metro,” said Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas, spokeswoman of the National Capital Region Police Office.
Molitas however said there was no specific terror threat in the capital. “We have been checking the security preparations since this morning. And so far, everything is okay,” she said.
“We are celebrating with the public, but we are also asking for their cooperation,” she added.
2016 saw repeated bloodshed across the globe, including a deadly truck attack at a Berlin Christmas market, a similar incident on Bastille Day in France that killed 86, and atrocities in Turkey and the Middle East.
New South Wales state premier Mike Baird however urged “business as usual” in Australia’s biggest city.
“My encouragement to everyone is to enjoy New Year’s Eve…in the knowledge that police are doing everything they can to keep us safe,” Baird said.
Some 2,000 extra officers were deployed following the arrest of a man for allegedly making threats against Sydney’s big show in an online blog.
There have been a number of other reported threats this holiday period, in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.
In Melbourne, police foiled a “significant” Islamic State-inspired terror plot planned for Christmas Day targeting the city with explosives.
Indonesia also said it foiled plans by an Islamic State-linked group for a Christmas-time suicide bombing.
Israel on Friday issued a warning of imminent “terrorist attacks” to tourists and western targets in India, telling its citizens to avoid public places.
Security concerns have hit many New Year events with truck blockades a new tactic to try to prevent vehicles ramming into crowds. Sydney is using garbage trucks as safety barriers.
The German capital has beefed up security after the December 19 carnage, deploying hundreds more police, some armed with machine-guns.
“This year, what’s new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armored vehicles at the entrances” to the zone around Brandenburg Gate, a police spokesman said.
In Cologne, after a wave of sexual attacks last year, 1,800 police were to be deployed—compared to just 140 in 2015.
In neighboring Austria police planned to hand out 6,000 free pocket alarms—which emit a shrill noise when activated—to help stop assaults on women.
In Paris, a fireworks display was again scheduled this year, after muted 2015 celebrations in the aftermath of the November 13 massacre of 130 people.
Nearly 100,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers were to be deployed across France against the jihadist threat.
With more than a million people expected to turn out to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New York is deploying 165 “blocker” trucks and some 7,000 men.
Rome has deployed armored vehicles and greater numbers of security forces around the Coliseum and at St. Peter’s Square where the Pope will give midnight Mass.
Moscow police was set to deploy more than 5,000 officers backed by 8,000 members of the new national guard and 2,000 volunteer militia to maintain order.
Thousands traditionally gather in Red Square, but for the second year in a row, the area will be open solely to 6,000 invitees.
London has 3,000 officers on patrol with crowds flocking to line the banks of the Thames to watch the fireworks around the London Eye ferris wheel.
In Dubai, the gigantic pyrotechnics off the world’s highest skyscraper are going ahead, despite a major tower block blaze nearby last year.
Up to two million people are expected to party at Rio’s Copacabana beach.
But with Brazil mired in its worst recession in a century, the fireworks have been cut to just 12 minutes as the state government fights bankruptcy.
Normally boisterous Bangkok will see in the New Year on a more somber note, with prayers and candles replacing parties as the nation grieves for King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died in October.
And, at the stroke of midnight, the celebrations will last one second longer—a leap second—decreed by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to allow astronomical time to catch up with atomic clocks that have called the hour since 1967.