Europe ramp up se­cu­rity af­ter Ber­lin at­tack

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BER­LIN/PARIS:

Euro­pean cap­i­tals tight­ened se­cu­rity on Fri­day ahead of New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions, erect­ing con­crete bar­ri­ers in city cen­tres and step­ping up po­lice num­bers af­ter the Is­lamic State at­tack in Ber­lin last week that killed 12 peo­ple.

In the Ger­man cap­i­tal, po­lice closed the Pariser Platz square in front of the Bran­den­burg Gate and pre­pared to de­ploy 1,700 ex­tra of­fi­cers, many along a party strip where ar­moured cars will flank con­crete bar­ri­ers block­ing off the area.

“Ev­ery mea­sure is be­ing taken to pre­vent a pos­si­ble at­tack,” Ber­lin po­lice spokesman Thomas Neuen­dorf told Reuters TV. Some po­lice of­fi­cers would carry sub-ma­chine guns, he said, an un­usual tac­tic for Ger­man po­lice.

Last week’s at­tack in Ber­lin, in which a 24year old Tu­nisian ploughed a truck into a Christ­mas mar­ket, has prompted Ger­man law­mak­ers to call for tougher se­cu­rity mea­sures.

In Mi­lan, where po­lice shot the man dead, se­cu­rity checks were set up around the main square. Trucks were banned from the cen­tres of Rome and Naples. Po­lice and soldiers cra­dled ma­chine guns out­side tourists sites in­clud­ing Rome’s Colos­seum.

Madrid plans to de­ploy an ex­tra 1,600 po­lice on the New Year week­end. For the sec­ond year run­ning, ac­cess to the city’s cen­tral Puerta del Sol square where rev­ellers tra­di­tion­ally gather to bring in the New Year will be re­stricted to 25,000 peo­ple, with po­lice set­ting up bar­ri­cades to con­trol ac­cess.

In Cologne in west­ern Ger­many, where hun­dreds of women were sex­u­ally as­saulted and robbed out­side the cen­tral train sta­tion on New Year’s Eve last year, po­lice have in­stalled new video sur­veil­lance cam­eras to mon­i­tor the sta­tion square.

The at­tacks in Cologne, where po­lice said the sus­pects were mainly of North African and Arab ap­pear­ance, fu­elled crit­i­cism of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept nearly 900,000 migrants last year. The Ber­lin at­tack has in­ten­si­fied that crit­i­cism. In Frank­furt, home to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and Ger­many’s big­gest air­port, more than 600 po­lice of­fi­cers will be on duty on New Year’ Eve, twice as many as in 2015.

In Brus­sels, where Is­lamist sui­cide bombers killed 16 peo­ple and in­jured more than 150 in March, the mayor was re­view­ing whether to can­cel New Year fire­works but de­cided this week that they would go ahead.

Paris pa­trols

In Paris, where Is­lamic State gun­men killed 130 peo­ple last Novem­ber, au­thor­i­ties pre­pared for a high-se­cu­rity week­end, the high­light of which will be the fire­works on the Champs-…lysÈes, which some 600,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to at­tend.

Ahead of New Year’s Eve, heav­ily armed soldiers pa­trolled pop­u­lar Paris tourist sites such as the Eif­fel Tower, the Arc de Tri­om­phe and the Lou­vre mu­seum. Across France, more than 90,000 po­lice and thou­sands of soldiers will be on duty for New Year’s Eve, au­thor­i­ties said. On Wed­nes­day, po­lice in south­west France, ar­rested a man sus­pected of hav­ing planned an at­tack on New Year’s Eve.

Two other peo­ple, one of whom was sus­pected of hav­ing planned an at­tack on po­lice, were ar­rested in a sep­a­rate raid, also in south­west France near Toulouse, po­lice sources told Reuters. In Vi­enna, po­lice handed out more than a thou­sand pocket alarms to women, ea­ger to avoid a re­peat of the sex­ual as­saults that blighted Cologne’s New Year’s Eve in 2015. “At present, there is no ev­i­dence of any spe­cific dan­ger in Aus­tria. How­ever, we are talk­ing about an in­creased risk sit­u­a­tion,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Sobotka said. “We leave noth­ing to chance with re­gard to se­cu­rity.” In Ukraine, po­lice ar­rested a man on Fri­day who they sus­pect was plan­ning a Ber­lin copy­cat at­tack in the city of Odessa. — Reuters

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