Terror alert and fires disrupt New Year’s celebrations

German city of Munich shuts down two train stations after receiving threats of “suicide” attacks.

Flames and smoke after a fire broke out at the The Address Hotel in Dubai
Reports said at least 16 people were hurt following the blaze in Dubai [EPA]

Millions of people around the world have welcomed in the year 2016 on high security alert, with train stations in Germany evacuated over an “imminent threat” and fireworks cancelled in Paris and Brussels, while huge fires ripped through a Dubai hotel and destroyed 1,000 homes in the Philippines.

Only hours before the New Year celebration in Germany, police shut down two main train stations in the city of Munich after receiving “very concrete information” from the intelligence service of a friendly country that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group had planned to carry out “suicide attacks” in the southern city on New Year’s Eve.

“I think this was the right decision because I believe that we cannot take risks regarding such concrete threats about concrete places and concrete times,” Bavaria Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told a news conference on Friday.

As of 05:45 GMT on Friday, the two train stations had reopened, according to Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin.   

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Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae said ISIL had planned to use suicide bombers in the attack.

Despite police warnings to stay away from big crowds, thousands of people were on the streets of Munich at midnight to welcome the new year with fireworks.

Security forces in many capitals around the world were on raised alert after a year of violent attacks.

In Europe, terror fears loomed large, with firework displays cancelled in Brussels and Paris.

More than 100,000 police were deployed throughout France to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since attacks in the city on November 13 left 130 people dead.

In his New Year address, President Francois Hollande said France “has not finished with terrorism yet” and that the threat of another attack “remains at its highest level”.

Belgian police were holding five people over an alleged New Year attack plot in Brussels, as well as arresting a 10th suspect over the Paris attacks.

Fires in Dubai and Manila

In Dubai, a vast blaze ripped through a luxury 63-story hotel, the Address Downtown, close to the world’s tallest tower where people had gathered to ring in the New Year.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Dubai, said investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze. 

But authorities put on a spectacular firework show, refusing to let the hotel blaze, which injured 16 people, disrupt celebrations.

At least 3,000 families lost their homes in the capital Manila on January 1 [Reuters]
At least 3,000 families lost their homes in the capital Manila on January 1 [Reuters]

In the Philippine capital Manila, a fire hit at least 1,000 homes displacing 3,000 families just hours after the New Year celebration. Authorities said firecrackers likely started the blaze.

Sydney, traditionally the first to host a major New Year’s bash, kicked off the global festivities when it lit up the skies with pyrotechnics at the stroke of midnight or 13:00 GMT on Thursday.

Jakarta remained on high alert after anti-terror police foiled detailed plans for an alleged New Year suicide attack in the Indonesian capital.

Turkish police detained two ISIL suspects allegedly planning to stage attacks in the centre of the capital Ankara.

In Moscow, police for the first time closed off Red Square, where tens of thousands of revelers traditionally gather.

“It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said ahead of the celebrations.

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In Britain, Scotland Yard said around 3,000 officers were deployed across central London in what was reported to be an unprecedented anti-terror security effort.

In the United States, authorities said they had arrested and charged a 25-year-old American Muslim convert over an alleged attempt to launch a New Year’s Eve attack in upstate New York in the name of ISIL.

In New York City, despite a pledge of tight security, one million people turned out to see the Times Square ball descend at midnight. 

An estimated two million people gathered to ring in 2016 on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, with the Brazilian city hosting this year’s Olympics.

In Sierra Leone, the capital Freetown was hoping to reclaim its mantle as host of the best beach parties in Africa after Ebola scared people away.

The city of 1.2 million was deserted 12 months ago during the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies