Run­ning scared

Sunday News - - WORLD -

NEW YORK In a city shaken by its dead­li­est ter­ror­ist at­tack since 9/11, po­lice are promis­ing an un­prece­dented se­cu­rity ef­fort to try to se­cure a soft tar­get span­ning five bor­oughs and 42km: the New York City Marathon.

City of­fi­cials have sought to calm the nerves of more than 50,000 run­ners and the huge crowds of on­look­ers ex­pected to line the marathon route by in­sist­ing it will go off to­mor­row with­out a hitch, only days af­ter a truck at­tack killed eight peo­ple in lower Man­hat­tan.

The se­cu­rity de­tail will in­clude hun­dreds of ex­tra uni­formed pa­trol and plain­clothes of­fi­cers, rov­ing teams of coun­tert­er­ror­ism com­man­dos armed with heavy weapons, bomb-sniff­ing dogs, and rooftop snipers poised to shoot if a threat emerges.

The New York Po­lice Depart­ment is also turn­ing to a tac­tic it has used to pro­tect Trump Tower and the Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Pa­rade: 16-tonne rub­bish trucks filled with sand and ‘‘blocker cars’’ at key in­ter­sec­tions to pre­vent any­one driv­ing on the course.

Marathon­ers from around the world who have been stream­ing into the city in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the race have ex­pressed mixed feel­ings about run­ning so soon af­ter the car­nage.

‘‘I can be re­ally scared of it when I amat home and in front of the TV,’’ An­nemerel de Jongh, 28, of The Hague, Nether­lands, said as she picked up her race num­ber at a Man­hat­tan con­ven­tion cen­tre. ‘‘But when I am­run­ning, I feel maybe a lit­tle bit in­vin­ci­ble, like noth­ing can hap­pen to me. I can run away from it.’’

The NYPD has said it has no in­for­ma­tion point­ing to any cred­i­ble threat against the race. There is no ques­tion, though, that the course pro­vides a se­cu­rity chal­lenge, even for a po­lice depart­ment with 35,000 of­fi­cers.

Run­ners gather at Staten Is­land’s Fort Wadsworth, a for­mer mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion now par­tially oc­cu­pied by the US Coast Guard. From there, the course heads through res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods with hun­dreds of spots where an at­tacker could steer a ve­hi­cle on to the packed course. Streets lead­ing to the course are closed, but on many of them, in most years, the only bar­ri­ers have been blue wooden sawhorses and thin plas­tic tape.

The field is so big, run­ners start in waves, mean­ing some peo­ple will still be stand­ing on the start­ing line while com­peti­tors in the wheel­chair di­vi­sion are cross­ing the fin­ish.

New York Gover­nor An­drew Cuomo has said the state po­lice, the Na­tional Guard, the state Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment and other agen­cies will pro­vide added se­cu­rity. The state po­lice will also dou­ble the num­ber of troop­ers posted at high-pro­file lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Kennedy and LaGuardia air­ports.

Wed­nes­day’s at­tack, on a bi­cy­cle path away from the marathon route, by an al­leged Is­lamic State sup­porter, ‘‘ap­pears to have fol­lowed, al­most ex­actly to a T, the in­struc­tions Isis has put out in its so­cial me­dia chan­nels’’, said the NYPD’s top coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial, John Miller.

The shift away from so­phis­ti­cated large-scale at­tacks like the one on the World Trade Cen­tre’s twin tow­ers on Septem­ber 11, 2001 to smaller ones on soft tar­gets had forced Amer­i­can law en­force­ment to be­come more adept at how to pre­vent and re­spond to ter­ror­ism, said Karen Green­berg, di­rec­tor of Ford­ham Law School’s Cen­tre on Na­tional Se­cu­rity.

‘‘I don’t think peo­ple should be wor­ried,’’ Green­berg said. ‘‘The po­lice know what they are do­ing. Look at how few suc­cess­ful at­tacks there have been.’’

Safety ad­just­ments made by or­gan­is­ers of the New York City Marathon fol­low­ing the bomb­ing of the Bos­ton Marathon in 2013 – such as ban­ning back­packs and cos­tumes – re­mained in place, said Chris Weiller, spokesman for New York Road Run­ners. De­spite wide­spread news re­ports about the truck at­tack, the can­cel­la­tion rate had re­mained about the same, he said.

New York Marathon en­trant Kris Lede­gen, 49, of Herder­sem, Bel­gium, said he had never con­sid­ered skip­ping the race. One of the women killed in Wed­nes­day’s at­tack was from Bel­gium. The coun­try was also REUTERS the scene of an at­tempted car at­tack this year in An­twerp.

‘‘It hap­pened here, and it hap­pened in Bel­gium as well al­ready,’’ Lede­gen said. ‘‘So it can hap­pen any­where.’’

Mean­while, the sis­ter of the Uzbek im­mi­grant ac­cused of the at­tack says her brother might have been brain­washed, and has ap­pealed to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to en­sure he gets a fair trial. Trump has called for Say­fullo Saipov, 29, to re­ceive the death penalty.

Speak­ing from Tashkent, the cap­i­tal of Uzbek­istan, Umida Saipova said she and her fam­ily had been shocked to see Saipov grow a long beard af­ter he got mar­ried in 2013.

‘‘Per­haps he’s be­come part of some or­gan­ised group. I don’t know, hon­estly, how long it will take for his head to get rid of that poi­son, but I’m sure he will come to his senses, God will­ing.’’

She said she had spo­ken with her brother the day be­fore the at­tack. ‘‘He was in a good mood. It was a usual, good con­ver­sa­tion.’’ AP, Reuters

A man runs along the West Side High­way bike path yes­ter­day, past memo­ri­als to the vic­tims of Wed­nes­day’s truck at­tack, which killed eight peo­ple. The car­nage has seen se­cu­rity stepped up along the route of the New York City Marathon.

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