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Undercover armed police officers will be patrolling Christmas markets across the UK this year as part of the new stringent anti-terror measures following a number of attacks carried out by ISIS in Britain and Europe. Bag searches and airport-style security checks will also be in operation at ice rinks and other festive events that take place this time of the year across all major cities including London, Birmingham and Manchester, media report said on Sunday.
“We have taken into account some of the tragic events that have happened both nationally and internationally. We want (people) to feel reassured and not alarmed by the (police) presence. But we want them to remain alert,” said Superintendent Andy Parsons of West Midlands Police. Birmingham’s winter market — the biggest outside famous winter markets of Germany and Austria — will have a protective “ring of steel” around it, while police “spotters” will mingle with revellers to identify possible terrorists, ‘The Sunday Times’ reported.
Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market — named after its twin city in Germany — has more than 120 stalls around Victoria Square and is expected to be visited by more than 1 million people after it opens on November 16. Concrete and metal barriers will be put around the site and armed police will control vehicle checkpoints in the area.
In Manchester, where the city’s Christmas markets will open next week, armed police in uniform and in plain clothes will be on patrol for the first time. Northumbria Police have confirmed that they will be deploying armed officers at festive events throughout the Christmas period.
“We want the public to be reassured that our officers will be on patrol throughout these types of events to ensure public safety and make sure everyone can enjoy themselves,” said the force’s chief inspector, Simon Hall. Armed officers will also be on patrol in and around other large events, as they have throughout the year in the Northumbria Police area, he said, adding “this is not in relation to any specific threat, but is in line with the current national threat level of ‘Severe’.”
The Christmas market in Leicester Square, central London, will be guarded by armed response vehicles while retractable steel pillars have been installed on roads leading to the square to prevent a car or lorry attack. Terrorists have been known to target crowded Christmas events in Europe in the past.
In December last year, an ISIS supporter used a hijacked lorry to kill 12 people and injure dozens of others at one of Berlin’s traditional markets.