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World welcomes New Year despite terror fears

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New York (AFP) - Millions welcomed in the New Year with Champagne and cheers Friday, although tightened security put a damper on festivities in Europe where Germany evacuated stations over an imminent terror threat and a huge hotel fire sparked panic in Dubai.

In New York, around 6,000 police were watching over a bustling Times Square as Mayor Bill Blasio flicked the switch, sending the city's massive glittering glass ball down in the final seconds of 2015.

Colorful confetti fluttered in the cool night air as the boisterous crowd roared with glee, mirroring similar scenes of revelry which took place around the world.

But after a year in which Islamic militants staged a wave of deadly attacks, sewing carnage from Paris to California, the celebrations were held in tight security, with the New York police describing it as the biggest security operation in the city's history.

Since the Paris attacks in November, which saw Islamic state jihadists slaughtering 130 people in a series of gun and suicide attacks, Europe has been on high alert with France and Belgium cancelling their traditional New Year fireworks displays in their respective capitals.

And just half an hour before the celebrations began in Germany, police evacuated two stations in the southern city of Munich after receiving "reliable information" about a plot to carry out a suicide attack at midnight by Islamic State jihadists.

Police said they were hunting "five to seven suspects" after the authorities were tipped off by a "friendly intelligence service", which media reports suggested was French.

Art work is projected on Arc de Triomphe for New Year's celebrations on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on …

In France, more than 100,000 police were deployed to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since the November 13 attacks.

And in Belgium, police were holding five people over an alleged New Year plot in Brussels, as they also announced the arrest of a 10th suspect linked to the Paris attacks.

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.

Despite the dramatic scenes from the inferno, which injured 16 people, the festivities went ahead as planned and crowds cheering the bursts of light and colour from a massive fireworks show at nearby Burj Khalifa skyscraper, even as smoke billowed from the nearby hotel.

- 'Choice target for terrorists' -

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 (1300 GMT Thursday).

After Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the chimes of midnight will finally move across the Americas.


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