World parties to ring in New Year despite terror jitters

PARIS - Millions of people around the world shrugged off terror jitters to ring in 2017 in style, as Sydney kicked off the party with a spectacular fireworks display that lit up its iconic harbour.

Revellers crammed into major cities to celebrate New Year with security tightened amid fears large crowds of people could present a target for extremists.

Getting the festivities started was Sydney, where around 1.5 million people thronged Australia's biggest city to watch midnight fireworks erupting from the Harbour Bridge.

World parties to ring in 2017 despite terror jitters

  • Members of the Nepalese indigenous Gurung community wear traditional attire as they take part in a New Year celebration ceremony known as "Tamu Lhosar" in Kathmandu on December 30, 2016, held to celebrate their New Year or Lhosar.
  • People release balloons, carrying their wishes, to celebrate the New Year at Prince Park Tower in the Japanese capital Tokyo on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks are seen above Pyongyang, North Korea on New Year day in this photo provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks light up the sky over Kim Il Sung Square at midnight in Pyongyang to bring in New Year's Day on January 1, 2017.
  • A man and a boy offer prayers on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • People wearing bear skins dance in the streets of Comanesti, Romania, on December 30, 2016 during a parade to drive away evil spirits of the past year. From Christmas Eve until after New Year, Romanians bring to life the various rituals, which often include costumes and masks evoking animals, such as bears, horses or goats.
  • Thais hold candle lights as they pray to celebrate the new year at Sanam Luang park in Bangkok, Thailand January 1, 2017.
  • View of a light show on the city's iconic Arc de Triomphe monument during the New Year celebration in Paris, France, December 31, 2016.
  • Fireworks for New Year celebration are launched from boats at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on January 1, 2017.
  • FARC guerilla fighters celebrate the New Year before their demobilization at the Front 24 Alberto Martinez encampment in the Vegaez municipality, Antioquia department, Colombia on January 1, 2017. Colombia's Congress on Wednesday passed a law granting amnesty to Marxist FARC rebels as part of the country's peace deal, a development the government hailed as "historic."
  • The Countdown Wishing Trees - between Dec 1 and 30, the public can collect a wishing charm from one of the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2017 wishing activity attendants at Marina Bay waterfront promenade.
  • The Waterford crystal ball lit by Phillips on display before the Philips Ball Test during the runup to Times Square New Year's Eve 2017 at One Times Square on December 30, 2016 in New York City.
  • A family fireworks illuminates the sky above the iconic Opera House in Sydney on December 31, 2016, ahead of New Years fireworks. /
  • Fireworks erupt over Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the New Years Eve fireworks show on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode as "2017" is displayed at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre during New Year celebrations in Hong Kong, China January 1, 2017.
  • Police officers stand guard at the location where a stampede incident occurred during New Year celebrations two years ago, on the Bund in Shanghai, China December 31, 2016. Authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai have opted not to organize New Year celebrations on the historic riverfront Bund this week, two years after a stampede killed 36 people.
  • Fireworks display at The Marina Bay Singapore 2017 Countdown party.
  • Cleaners clean up the Esplanade Waterfront after the Marina Bay Singapore 2017 Countdown party.
  • Fireworks light the sky over the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral during the New Year's Day celebrations in central Moscow
  • People gather at the Reeperbahn street in St.Pauli red-light district before the New Year celebrations for 2017 in Hamburg
  • Lights reading 2017 are projected on the pyramids during New Year's day celebrations on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode next to the Quadriga sculpture atop the Brandenburg gate during New Year celebrations in Berlin
  • Fireworks explode next to the Quadriga sculpture atop the Brandenburg gate during New Year celebrations in Berlin
  • Fireworks explode by the Big Ben clocktower in London, Britain January 1, 2017.
  • View of a light show on the city's iconic Arc de Triomphe monument during the New Year celebration in Paris, France, December 31, 2016.
  • Policemen secure the Champs Elysees Avenue as Revellers gather during New Year celebrations in Paris,France, late December 31, 2016.
  • People gather at Hallgrims church to celebrate the New Year in Reykjavik, Iceland, January 1, 2017.
  • Brightly colored decorations are seen during New Year celebrations January 1, 2017 in Abidjan.
  • Hazim Syukri. The 2.4kg infant had been due to arrive on 14 January 2017, but became Singapore’s first New Year baby instead.
  • Hazim Syukri. The 2.4kg infant had been due to arrive on 14 January 2017, but became Singapore’s first New Year baby instead.
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro
  • Fireworks explode over Copacabana beach during New Year celebrations in Rio de Janeiro
  • A boy throws a coin into a giant offering box on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • People make their way to offer prayers on the first day of the new year at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the new year in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile January 1, 2017.
  • Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko smile with their family members during a photo session for the New Year at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Fireworks light up the sky over Kim Il Sung Square at midnight in Pyongyang to bring in New Year's Day on January 1, 2017. /
  • South Korean Buddhist followers pray during a New Year's Day service for the Korean Peninsula's reunification and peace at the Imjingak peace park in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on January 1, 2017.
  • Fireworks explode during New Year celebrations in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, December 31, 2016.
  • Fireworks explode during New Year celebrations in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, December 31, 2016.
  • Couples kiss during New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square on January 1, 2017 in New York.
  • Revelers play in the confetti at the start of 2017 at the New Year's celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 1, 2017.
  • Revelers embrace at the start of 2017 at the New Year's celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 1, 2017.

And nearly 500,000 people were expected on Paris's famous Champs-Elysees, where the Arc de Triomphe was lit up with a colourful countdown to 2017 and the word "welcome" in dozens of languages.

The raucous celebrations drew to an end a year of political shocks, from Britain's vote to leave the European Union to the election of maverick leaders in the United States and Philippines.

It has also been a year of celebrity deaths from David Bowie to Prince and Mohammed Ali.

2016 was also a year of bloodshed and misery that has seen the war in Syria, Europe's migrant crisis and numerous terror attacks dominate the headlines.

The violence continued on Saturday, with twin bomb blasts killing at least 27 in a busy market area in central Baghdad.

But this did not stop people flooding the streets of the Iraqi capital to celebrate and families in evening dress headed to swanky hotels for parties.

Fadhel al-Araji, a 21-year-old from the neighbourhood of Sadr City, already had his beer in the back of his car.

"Tonight is about fun... Everybody can do what they want and nobody cares. We need a night like this, Iraq needs it," he said, behind the wheel of his beat-up Toyota.

In the shattered Syrian city of Aleppo, 20-year-old student Abdel Wahab Qabbani was also determined to see in 2017 in a positive frame of mind.

"The last two years, I didn't go out for New Year. This time, I'm going to party," he said.

The Gulf emirate of Dubai marked the new year with its usual gigantic pyrotechnics off the world's highest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa, as well as other landmarks.

This year's celebration passed without problems, unlike last year when a fierce blaze broke out at a nearby tower.

But revellers did have to contend with reinforced security measures and a heightened police presence.

There were some 2,000 extra officers in Sydney after a man was arrested for allegedly making online threats against the celebrations and garbage trucks were deployed to block any attempt to plough a vehicle into the crowd.

Following a deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market on December 19, the German capital beefed up security, deploying extra police, some armed with machine guns.

"This year, what's new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armoured vehicles at the entrances" to the zone around Brandenburg Gate, said a police spokesman.

However, visitors seemed undeterred by recent events as they began to gather under a freezing Berlin sky for a series of concerts ahead of a large midnight fireworks display in the area.

In Paris, there will be fireworks again, after muted 2015 celebrations following the massacre of 130 people by jihadists in the French capital.

Nearly 100,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed across France against the jihadist threat and President Francois Hollande inspected the security measures on the Champs-Elysees.

Brussels, meanwhile, reinstated its fireworks show after last year's was cancelled at the last minute due to a terrorist threat.

With more than a million people expected to turn out to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New York is deploying 165 "blocker" trucks and some 7,000 police.

Extra security was also in place in Moscow, Istanbul and London.

Rome stationed armoured vehicles and greater numbers of security forces around the Coliseum and St Peter's Square, where Pope Francis will celebrate a "Te Deum" hymn of thanksgiving.

In a Mass earlier Saturday, the pontiff urged people to reflect on the plight of the young as the year drew to a close.

"We have created a culture that idolises youth... yet at the same time paradoxically we have condemned our young people to have no place in society," he said.

Elsewhere, issues other than terrorism threatened to dampen the party.

Up to two million people were expected at Rio's Copacabana beach. But with Brazil mired in its worst recession in a century, the fireworks have been cut to just 12 minutes.

And normally boisterous Bangkok was seeing in the new year on a more sombre note as the nation grieves for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October.

Nevertheless, revellers will at least get one extra second to enjoy the night's festivities.

At the stroke of midnight, there will be a "leap second" decreed by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to allow astronomical time to catch up with atomic clocks that have called the hour since 1967.