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NY vows toughest New Year’s Eve security in years

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By Agence France-Presse

The toughest security presence in years will safeguard New Year’s Eve festivities in New York’s Times Square, where around two million people are expected to congregate in the area, police said Thursday.

The stepped-up security follows two recent attacks, both apparently inspired by the Islamic State extremist group — an aborted bombing in a subway tunnel on December 11 and a truck attack in TriBeCa that killed eight people on October 31.

New York police chief James O’Neill said there were no direct, credible threats, but promised people would see a “stronger police presence out there than we have seen even in recent years,” which he called “prudent” in the wake of recent incidents.

Last May, a US Navy veteran, with no apparent terror motive, rammed a car into Times Square, killing a young woman and injuring 22 other people.

Authorities are also guarding against a Las Vegas-style shooting, after a sole gunman holed up in a high-rise hotel shot dead 58 people at a country music festival on October 1, the worst mass shooting in recent US history.

O’Neill said there would be more bomb-sniffing dogs, more counter-sniper teams and more officers on the ground than last year, but declined to set a number.

Concrete, blocker vehicles and sand trucks will seal off Times Square, trucks will be restricted, and spectators will have to walk through two layers of checkpoints to access the area, subject to bag checks and screenings to ensure no weapons.

Heavy-weapons teams and dog patrols will deploy throughout the area, and to safeguard against a Las Vegas style attack, uniformed police will work hand-in-hand with security at every hotel in the area.

Police repeatedly denied any specific threats, but said they were aware of jihadist propaganda urging sympathizers to attack New York and holiday celebrations.

Sunday is expected to be the coldest New Year’s Eve in the US financial capital for 55 years. The National Weather Service warn that temperatures could fall to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius) at midnight on December 31, the coldest since 1962.

Mariah Carey, who was last year humiliated by mic problems at the annual televised ball-drop, pop singer Nick Jonas and the former Fifth Harmony vocalist Camila Cabello are set to provide the entertainment at this year’s Times Square New Year’s Eve party. (AFP)