New Year’s Eve terror threats are affecting various countries in Europe. Reuters reported this morning that two people were arrested in Brussels on Sunday and Monday, both accused of planning New Year’s Eve terror attacks on historic locations in the city. Police found military clothing and Islamic State propaganda material but no weapons or explosives. The New York Times reports that computer equipment was also found in the homes of the two arrested. They also state that police believe the terror attacks the two planned would be similar to the coordinated attacks in Paris last month. Six people were originally detained as a result of house searches in Brussels, but four were eventually released.
Since the terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people on November 13, Brussels has been a focus of investigations because links of some of the suspects for those attacks and Brussels were discovered. Because of the upcoming New Year’s Eve holiday and the large numbers of people who will be celebrating at historic locations, the possibility of terror attacks in these locations is heightened. The Reuters report indicates that the individuals arrested in Brussels this week were not connected to the Paris attacks. It’s believed that police officers and soldiers were the targets of the foiled terror attacks. Because of this, police officers now patrol in pairs, with one of them armed, and they are now allowed to wear bulletproof vests while traveling to and from work.
Brussels police described the New Year’s Eve terror threats as serious according to The Mirror. They disclosed that the planned attacks would have taken place across multiple locations amidst public New Year’s Eve celebrations. They called the events being planned by the individuals “a horror ‘spectacular’.” The Mirror also identified a police station and the city’s center square as two of the targets of the planned attacks. One of those arrested is also suspected of “‘playing a lead role in the activities of a terrorist group and recruiting for terrorist acts’,” according to prosecutors.
On December 26, The Telegraph reported that Austrian police warned of the possibility of an increased threat of terror attacks on New Year’s Eve after they received a warning from what they called a “friendly intelligence service” on Saturday.
This warning is one more reason for the high alert The Telegraph reports London and other European cities are currently under. They also cite an unnamed British MP as saying people should not change their holiday plans because of possible terror attacks and should celebrate as they normally would.The Mirror reports that Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee echoes this viewpoint. He told them,
“We should never allow the threat of terrorism to frighten us into changing our normal lives. We need to continue with our celebrations. Given the current climate, of course we should be extra vigilant and continue to be well protected but if we give into fear then they would have won.”
Because of the New Year’s Eve terror threat, there are fears about the size of the London police force and whether it would be sufficient in the event of a terror attack just outside of London. There is talk that some units may be created specifically for New Year’s Eve celebrations outside London in order to alleviate this concern.
In light of the threats of terror acts on New Year’s Eve, spokeswoman Superintendant Jo Edwards told The Daily Mail that the public will see more police officers and probably more weapons, as a result of their efforts to reassure those celebrating about their security and their safety in the event of any attempt at a terror attack or any other possible dangerous situation. She also confirmed that those entering New Year’s Eve events that require tickets would be subject to greater scrutiny and that searches would be frequent. Because this may slow entry to ticketed events, she advised arriving at the events early in order to ensure getting to the event in time.
[Photo courtesy of Associated Press/Geert Vanden Wijngaert]