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Jittery world bids adieu to a year marred by terror

The world yesterday bid a weary and wary adieu to a year marred by attacks that left nations reeling and nerves rattled.

In Bangkok, police-flanked partygoers rang in the new year at the site of a deadly bombing that took place just months ago. In Paris, residents recovering from their city’s own deadly attacks enjoyed scaled-back celebrations. And in Belgium’s capital, authorities, anxious after thwarting what they say was a holiday terror plot, canceled festivities altogether.

Still, most places forged ahead with their celebrations as many refused to let jitters ruin the joy of the holiday.”We still have this fear but we need to continue to live,” said Parisian Myriam Oukik. “We will celebrate.”


In Australia, officials, struggling to contain the threat from home-grown extremists, encouraged revelers to enjoy the evening and assured that thousands of extra police would be out patrolling the major cities.

“Don’t change your way of life,” Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle recently urged residents of the nation’s second-largest city, who planned to gather by the hundreds of thousands despite blistering temperatures to watch nearly 11 tons of fireworks light up the sky. “Don’t let events from around the world challenge the way that we live.”

Melbourne’s rival, Sydney, takes seriously its position as one of the first major cities in the world to ring in each new year. More than 1 million planned to gather along the famed harbor to watch a glittery display featuring a multi-colored firework “waterfall” cascading off the Harbour Bridge and pyrotechnic effects in the shapes of butterflies, octopuses, and flowers.


In Thailand, less than six months after a pipe bomb killed 20 people at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, tens of thousands rang in the new year at the same intersection with live music and a countdown.

Up to 5,000 police were in the area, with explosive ordnance disposal experts making a sweep ahead of time.

Along the Chao Phraya River, tourism officials promised spectacular fireworks over two of the kingdom’s most iconic landmarks – the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

In India, hotels and restaurants in and around New Delhi had grand parties with live bands, dancing, and plenty of drinks.

With security being a concern, police and anti-terror squads conducted anti-terror drills at a crowded shopping mall and food court.

Indonesia was on high alert after authorities said they had foiled a plot by Islamic militants to attack government officials, foreigners, and others in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. About 150,000 police officers and soldiers have been deployed to safeguard churches, airports, and other public places.

National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Charliyan said security wass focused on vulnerable regions, including the capital Jakarta, the tourist resort of Bali, and restive West Papua where President Joko Widodo is celebrating the New Year. More than 9,000 police are deployed in Bali, the site of Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack that killed 202 people in 2002.


In China, an official New Year’s Eve celebration was planned near the Forbidden City with performances and fireworks, and one of China’s most popular TV stations was broadcasting a gala from the National Stadium, known as the iconic Bird’s Nest.

For security reasons, Shanghai closed subways near the scenic waterfront Bund because of a stampede last New Year’s Eve that killed 36 people and blemished the image of China’s most prosperous and modern metropolis.

Beijing’s shopping and bar areas were under a holiday security alert that started before Christmas and has resulted in armed police standing guard at popular commercial areas.

In Japan,, New Year’s Eve is the country’s biggest holiday, and millions crammed into trains to flee the cities for their hometowns to slurp down bowls of noodles, symbolizing longevity, while watching the annual Red and White NHK song competition. As midnight approached, families visited neighborhood temples.

Tokyo was on special alert for security issues this year, with posters in subways and other public spaces warning people to keep their eyes open for suspicious packages or activities.


In the Philippines, there were no specific threats timed for New Year’s revelries but government forces were on alert due to the presence of small but violent Muslim militant groups in Mindanao.

Concern on New Year’s Eve was instead focused on the use of illegal fireworks, which last year injured more than 850 people. Shopping malls and cities have organized fireworks displays to discourage people from lighting their own firecrackers.

In South Korea, hte people marked New Year’s Eve with traditional bell ringing ceremonies, fireworks, and outdoor music and dance performances. Thousands of people, including North Korean refugees, gathered at a town near the border with North Korea to watch one of the ceremonies and wish for peaceful Korean unification.

In her New Year’s message, South Korean President Park Geun-hye stressed again that her government is open to dialogue with North Korea but it will “resolutely” cope with any provocation by Pyongyang.

North Korea was expected to mark the new year with a speech by leader Kim Jong Un, which outside observers pore over for insight on the reclusive country’s policy direction.


In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s main soiree on Copacabana Beach had dual themes — the 100th anniversary of samba music and the kickoff to the Olympics, which the city will host in August. More than 2 million people were expected on the beaches on Thursday.

Police say more officers will be on hand this year than the 1,600 deployed for last year’s bash. Capt. Ivan Blaz, spokesman for Rio’s police force, told the Associated Press that they have received no reports of terrorism.

The partying will happen at a time when Brazil is mired in crisis. The economy has plunged, the opposition is pushing to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and a host of financial and government scandals have soured Brazilians.


In France, the people are still recovering from the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, and authorities were preparing for a possible worst-case scenario on New Year’s Eve.

About 60,000 police and troops were deployed across the country on Thursday. “The same troops who used to be in Mali, Chad, French Guyana or the Central African Republic are now ensuring the protection of French people,” said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Paris canceled its usual fireworks display and instead displayed a 5-minute video performance at the Arc de Triomphe just before midnight, relayed on screens along the Champs Elysée. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the “noble and decent” show was aimed at “sending the world the message that Paris is standing, proud of its lifestyle and living together.”


In Belgium, authorities in the capital Brussels canceled the planned New Year’s Eve fireworks amid fears of a terrorist attack. The decision came one day after authorities arrested two men in connection with an alleged plot to unleash holiday season attacks against police, soldiers and popular locations in the city.

Mayor Yvan Mayeur said it would be impossible to screen the thousands of revelers who would otherwise be gathering in Brussels to ring in the new year.


On the other side of the world, in New York, around 1 million people were expected to converge on New York City’s Times Square for the annual celebration. The party was to begin with musical acts, including Luke Bryan, Charlie Puth, Demi Lovato, and Carrie Underwood, and end with fireworks and the descent of a glittering crystal ball from a rooftop flagpole.

This year’s festivities were expected to be attended by nearly 6,000 New York City police officers, including members of a new specialized counterterrorism unit.

In Africa, police in Kenya, which has been repeatedly attacked by al-Shabaab militants based in neighboring Somalia, urged vigilance as many people prepared to celebrate in hotels and watch midnight fireworks displays. Unauthorized fireworks have been banned as a safety hazard “in view of the elevated threat of terrorism,” police said.

“Kenyans should remain vigilant at all times and know that we are facing a real terror threat since the split of al-Shabaab into two groups, one supporting al-Qaida and another the Islamic State,” Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet told the Associated Press. “We are facing a real terror threat because these two groups are struggling to outsmart each other. This, therefore, is not a time to drop our guard, particularly during this festive season.”