Brussels Cancels New Year’s Celebrations Amidst Terror Concerns

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Brussels Cancels New Year’s Celebrations Amidst Terror Concerns

| published December 30, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

Brussels city officials have cancelled all major celebrations for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, citing credible evidence that terrorists may attempt to execute an attack on behalf of the Islamic State.

Law enforcement and security officials in the Belgian capital say that the city’s annual New Year’s fireworks display has also been cancelled, or at least postponed (though Brussels’ officials did not explain if rescheduled fireworks would be held in celebration of “New Year’s” at some later point).

Police and law enforcement in Belgium have made more arrests this week, including at least two directly related to what was believed to be an imminent terror attack within Brussels or its suburbs. Arrests were also made in Turkey, where police interceded in what was believed to be a terror attack planned for New Year's Day.  The two arrested in Brussels are part of a group called the Kamikaze Riders, a motorcycle club with predominantly North African or Arab-African members.

Belgium has been the epicenter of investigations into ISIS-linked terror after militants launched a massive attack in Paris on November 13—a terror storm which resulted in 130 people dead and another 300 or more injured. Several of the Paris attackers had direct connections to Brussels, including one of the alleged ringleaders, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was later killed when Brussels police and special forces raided the apartments of some of the remaining Paris suspects. Two other Paris attackers, Brahim Abdeslam and Bilal Hadfi, rented apartments in Brussels.

The city of Brussels remains on edge more than six weeks after the Paris terror attacks, and five weeks after the four-hour shootout between police and ISIS-linked terrorists.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur announced the cancellations of New Year’s celebrations on Belgian TV and radio. More arrests are expected this week in Belgium, though officials there are not saying if the additional arrests are directly linked to the two persons already detained.

Meanwhile, officials in Paris—while not officially cancelling any major traditional events—have been quietly at work tamping down the excitement and requesting that revelers use caution and common sense. Tourism in Paris has suffered since the November terror attacks, and city officials find themselves in a tight spot: discourage large-scale New Year’s activities, and with it inhibit tourism money and holiday spending; or encourage business-as-usual but expect the logistical and security complexities of making Paris safe for celebrations.

France has already mobilized thousands of military and police in attempt to make the heavy security presence in the sprawling city inescapable, but it may not be enough to cover every venue and every popular street corner. The Guardian is reporting that Paris police will have some 9,000 officers deployed on the streets—or more than 80% of all police officers—on New Year’s Eve.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Recent Airstrikes Kill Some Paris Attackers; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 29, 2015.

Terror Concerns Still Haunt Europe; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; November 23, 2015.