Sunday, June 16, 2024

New York officials address terrorism concerns ahead of cricket World Cup

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New York state and county officials sought this week to reassure attendees and area residents that extensive security measures are being implemented in response to a threat against an upcoming cricket World Cup event reportedly posted on a pro-ISIS internet platform,

“Public safety is my top priority,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement, “and we are committed to ensuring the Cricket World Cup is a safe, enjoyable experience.”

In a first for a competition that has been held eight times since 2007, a number of matches in the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup are taking place in the United States, which is jointly hosting the event this year with the West Indies.

Among the matches slated to take place starting Saturday at a newly constructed, 34,000-seat facility in New York’s Nassau County is a highly anticipated showdown on June 9 between India and Pakistan. On Tuesday, an edited image reportedly surfaced online that showed an illustration of an arena with drones circling overhead, the words “Nassau Stadium” and the date “9/06/2024.”

At a news conference Wednesday featuring government and law enforcement officials closely associated with the staging of the tournament, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said threats against the event fielded by authorities dated back to April and were linked to ISIS-K. Also known as Islamic State-Khorasan, ISIS-K is an organization that splintered off the original ISIS and has developed a reputation for seeking to attack targets in various countries.

Ryder said the threats began in vague terms but “got more specific toward the actual game of India versus Pakistan, but did not name the place.”

“Then yesterday you all saw the video that went global,” he told reporters, “and they are calling for that lone wolf to act out.”

Hochul, who was not at the news conference, said in her statement that “there is no credible public safety threat at this time” but that her administration, in coordination with federal law enforcement as well as state and county police, would “continue to monitor the situation closely.”

“I have also directed the New York State Police to engage in elevated security measures,” she added, “including an increased law enforcement presence, advanced surveillance, and thorough screening processes.”

Ryder said officials were trying to keep the environment in and around the new stadium “as sterile as we can.” He told reporters that every attendee will have to pass through a magnetometer, searches will be conducted on the way in and no bags will be allowed except for specific situations such as medical needs, in which case they will have to be clear bags.

In addition, Ryder said, no drones will be allowed in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, N.Y., where the stadium is located. No one not clearly attending or staffing the event will be allowed in the park during the day while matches are being held there from Saturday through June 12.

“This will be one of the tightest securities that Nassau County has ever seen,” said Ryder. “Every threat is considered, to us, credible until it’s not.”

Nassau County is located on Long Island, just east of the New York City borough of Queens. The region is home to generations of immigrants from cricket-loving countries in the Caribbean and South Asia, and the tournament is also expected to lure fans from far-flung locales.

The ICC, which oversees arguably the world’s second-most popular sport after soccer, said in February that “over 3 million ticket applications from over 161 countries” were submitted for the T20 World Cup. The “unprecedented demand for tickets,” per the ICC, was greatest for the India-Pakistan tilt. In addition to the Long Island site, stadiums in Dallas and Broward County, Fla., will host tournament matches. Most of the event will unfold in the West Indies, including all the group-stage and knockout-round matches, culminating in the final in Barbados on June 29.

T20, also known as Twenty20 cricket, is a relatively recent version of the sport that pares matches down to approximately three hours, in contrast to the traditional, multiday events. Previous installations of the T20 men’s World Cup have taken place in South Africa, England, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, the United Arab Emirates and, in 2022, Australia. England is the defending champion, having defeated Pakistan in the final two years ago. Pakistan won the event in 2009, while India, home to the most lucrative T20 professional league, hasn’t emerged on top at the World Cup since 2007.

“When you’ve got a game as big as this, everything is credible,” Ryder said Wednesday of possible threats to the India-Pakistan match. “We will go through every fine detail when it comes to the security and safety of the residents here in Nassau County.”

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