New York City bolsters security for marathon after threats

NEW YORK: New York City will enhance security at the world's largest marathon this weekend by deploying more police officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, helicopters and patrol boats than last year following a reported threat of militant attacks ahead of Tuesday's election.

The city was on heightened alert after federal authorities said on Friday they were aware of an unspecific threat of attacks by the al Qaeda militant group around Election Day.

For Sunday's marathon, the number of uniformed and plain-clothes officers assigned to the race will be 10 percent more than for last year's and other resources have also been increased, police said. The increases were first announced on Wednesday.

"The people of New York should feel safe," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said on CNN. "We do large events in New York City like no other city."

Tensions in the biggest U.S. city were raised in September when a pressure cooker bomb exploded on a sidewalk in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood, wounding 31 people and evoking memories of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

An Afghan-born American citizen charged in the bombing, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, is also accused of setting off a bomb the same day along a New Jersey race course. No one was injured in that explosion.

In New York this weekend, police will run screening checkpoints near the start and finish of the race, as well as mobile cameras and units to detect radiation, the department said. Some officers will be on horseback, as is common in the city.

For security reasons, runners are prohibited from running with a backpack, and the only bag they can check is one provided by race officials.

"We are very confident in all the measures that have been put in place," marathon spokesman Chris Weiller said.

More than 50,000 people from around the world are expected to finish the 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon as millions of spectators cheer them on.

The heightened security is necessary, said Marie Jadin, who is participating in the marathon for a second time.

"I come from France, and there's a lot of attacks there, and we think about that all the time," she said. "I don't feel scared. I feel secure."

The record number of finishers was 50,530, set in 2014. The race, sponsored by the private group New York Road Runners, does not release the number of entrants.

Possibly adding to the number of finishers, weather forecasts say there will be cool temperatures and little or no precipitation, ideal for marathoners.