Authorities in Brussels have cancelled New Year’s celebrations due to fears of an imminent terror plot targeting revellers in the heart of the city.
The city’s mayor Yvan Mayeur announced the cancellation of planned festivities and fireworks saying: “Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow evening.”
He told a local Belgian broadcaster that the event “would have brought a lot of people together in the centre of Brussels” and the decision to cancel was a result of a “risk analysis by the crisis centre”.
Mr Mayeur said under the current circumstances it was not possible to “guarantee that we can check everyone coming to the event”.
“It’s better not to take any risks,” he added.
The move comes as federal prosecutors said during searches in different parts of the country, they had arrested two people suspected of plotting a New Year’s Eve attack in Brussels.
The two men arrested in Brussels yesterday were allegedly plotting to attack “symbolic targets” in the city on New Year’s Eve, but other details are sparse. Some news outlets, including CNN, have reported that the men are members of a biker gang called the “Kamikaze Riders” and were inspired but not directed by the Islamic State (ISIL).
Even with those two suspects in custody, Belgian law enforcement cannot rest, as the country remains under scrutiny for its perceived “homegrown jihadi insurgency“—the perpetrators of the November terror attacks in Paris came from Belgium, and ISIL has reportedly recruited at least 500 Belgian residents.
Last year, some 100,000 people turned out to watch the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display at the Place de Brouckere, noted ABC.
According to Quartz, in Shanghai, too, this New Year’s Eve will be a skeleton of what it was in 2014 though the Chinese city cancelled its parties because of concern about a repeat of last year’s dangerous stampedes, not acts of terrorism. Still, the underlying motivation of fear for public safety is proving to be a powerful one this holiday.