Sun, Nov 05, 2017 - Page 10 News List

After attack, NY tightens security for its marathon


In a city shaken by its deadliest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001, police are promising an unprecedented security effort to try to secure a soft target spanning five boroughs and 42km: the New York (NY) City Marathon.

City officials have sought to calm the nerves of more than 50,000 runners and huge crowds of onlookers expected to line the marathon route today by insisting it would go off without a hitch only days after a truck attack killed eight people in Lower Manhattan.

The security detail is to include hundreds of extra uniformed patrol and plainclothes officers, roving teams of counterterrorism commandos armed with heavy weapons, bomb-sniffing dogs and rooftop snipers poised to shoot if a threat emerges.

The New York City Police Department is also turning to a tactic it has used to protect Trump Tower and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: 16 tonne sanitation trucks filled with sand. The trucks, along with “blocker cars,” are to be positioned at key intersections to try and prevent anyone from driving onto the course.

Marathoners from around the world who have been streaming into the city in anticipation of the race expressed mixed feelings about running so soon after the carnage.

“I can be really scared of it when I am at home and in front of the TV,” Annemerel de Jongh, 28, of The Hague, Netherlands, said on Thursday as she picked up her race number at a Manhattan convention center. “But when I am running I feel maybe a little bit invincible, like nothing can happen to me. I can run away from it.”

The police department said it has no information pointing to any credible threat against the race.

There is no question, though, that the course provides a security challenge, even for a police department with 35,000 officers.

The race starts in a relatively secure location. Runners gather at Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth, a former military installation now partially occupied by the US Coast Guard.

From there the race heads through residential neighborhoods with hundreds of spots where an attacker could steer a vehicle onto the thickly packed course.

Streets leading to the course are closed, but on many of them, in most years, the only barrier is a blue, wooden sawhorse and a thin plastic tape.

The crowd is so big, runners start in waves, meaning some people will still be standing on the starting line while competitors in the wheelchair division are crossing the finish.

“It will be an extraordinary event, as it always is,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week at a news conference. “It will be well protected, as it always is.”

Police said they would use more of the blocker vehicles for the marathon than they have ever used for any other event.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state police, the US National Guard, the state Office of Emergency Management and other agencies would provide added security.

Cuomo said the state police would double the number of troopers posted at high-profile locations, including John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.The attack on Tuesday, on a bicycle path kilometers from the marathon route, was a grim reminder of how the Islamic State group is using its propaganda to encourage radicalized “lone wolves” to cause harm with unsophisticated means in easily accessible settings.

The attack by an alleged Islamic State group supporter “appears to have followed, almost exactly to a T, the instructions ISIS has put out in its social media channels,” NYPD counterterrorism official John Miller said using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

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