All 2,000 of London’s firearms officers will be on duty in the capital this evening, amid terrorism threats from Islamic State. Although firearms officers have had leave cancelled for special events before, such as the Olympics, this is the first time such precautions have been taken for New Year’s Eve.
In total, a record 6,000 officers will be on duty across the capital as revellers flock to popular spots including Trafalgar Square, and the banks of the Thames to watch the annual firework display. They do so under the shadow of an ongoing threat from Islamic State, who last month carried out an attack in Paris in which 130 people were killed.
Earlier this week, police in Vienna alerted a number of European cities to a possible terror threat between Christmas and the New Year, following an anonymous tip off from a “friendly” intelligence agency.
A list of possible offenders was included in the tip off, but specific locations have not been disclosed.
Capital cities across Europe have reacted by tightening security measures, while some have even cancelled aspects of the festivities.
In Brussels, the mayor has taken the extraordinary step of cancelling the city’s annual fireworks display due to the extremist threat.
Paris has also cancelled its fireworks display, replacing it with a ten minute light show projected on the Arc de Triumph.
And in Moscow, the Kremlin has closed off Red Square, the traditional focus of revelries, fearing terrorist actions.
The Russian politician Irina Khakamada accused the Kremlin of handing the Islamic State a propaganda victory by doing so, saying: “In many major cities of the world, they still ensure security in city squares on New Year’s night. But we, as we are challenging terrorists, should not deprive people of the holiday.”
London’s Mayor and senior police officers, by contrast, have encouraged Londoners to get out and enjoy themselves despite the threat, assuring the public that the police are being vigilant.
Ken Marsh of the Metropolitan Police Federation, the leader of rank-and-file police in the capital said: “All firearms officers will be on duty. There is no leave for firearms teams to provide greater cover,” he said.
“There is an awful lot of work going on behind the scenes.
“I think people will defy the terrorist threat.
“Londoners are very resilient and have a lot of faith in their police officers to keep them safe.”
British business groups have also urged the public to defy the terrorist threat and carry on as usual, highlighting the role that corporations play in maintaining security.
A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry said: “Ensuring the safety of employees and customers is a priority for firms.
“Businesses, especially large consumer-facing ones, have established security and resilience plans in place.
“They will be working closely with the police to ensure people have a safe and enjoyable New Year.”
Police forces outside of London are also calling in extra officers for duty in the face of the terrorist threat, while the Fire and Ambulance services have urged the public to do their part by planning ahead and looking out for one another.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London is taking a defiant stand against would-be terrorists, calling on Londoners to demonstrate the resilient spirit of the city. “It’s business as usual,” he said.
“From our fantastic fireworks on the banks of the Thames to thousands of events in pubs, clubs and restaurants across the city I’d urge Londoners and visitors alike to get out there and soak up the best we have to offer.
“As with any other major event in the capital our policing response will be appropriate, but I’d stress we’ve seen nothing to suggest a specific threat to London.
“I’ve no doubt people will be out there enjoying themselves in their hundreds of thousands. And so they should be.”
Follow Donna Rachel Edmunds on Twitter: Follow @Donna_R_E or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org