PARIS – A million revelers cheered fireworks in Sydney. Beijing started the year with singing and dancing displays hosted by Summer Olympics organizers. And rare celebrations resounded in war-torn Baghdad.
Across the globe, people gathered for parties, shot off fireworks and held out hopes for a peaceful and prosperous 2008.
But reminders of violence were apparent as well as security was tightened in many nations. Fireworks were canceled in downtown Brussels, Belgium, where police last week detained 14 people suspected of plotting to help an accused al-Qaida militant break out of jail.
In Paris, where festivities centered on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue and the Eiffel Tower, about 4,500 police and 140 rescue officials patrolled the streets.
In Thailand, an army spokesman said he believed that five bombs set off by suspected Muslim insurgents in a Thai-Malaysian border tourist town likely targeted New Year`s revelers.
The bombs, which wounded 27 people, exploded in the hotel and nightlife area of Sungai Kolok, including two inside a hotel dance club and one hidden in the basket of a motorcycle outside a hotel, spokesman Col. Akara Thiprote said.
Baghdad witnessed something Iraq had not seen since before the invasion of 2003 – people publicly partying to welcome in a new year.
The ballrooms of two landmark hotels – the Palestine and the Sheraton – were full of people for New Year`s Eve celebrations.
Several European countries rang in the new year with new habits.
Starting at midnight, the smoke-filled cafe was to become a memory in France. Following up on a ban last year on smoking in many indoor locations.