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Security clampdown at Venice Carnival but masks still allowed

Thousands attended the grand opening in St Mark's Square of the Venice Carnival, celebrated under heightened security following the sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne and the ongoing terror threat in Europe.

Authorities have increased surveillance throughout the city and increased the number of officers on patrol, both under-cover and in uniform, but rejected a proposal to ban revellers from wearing masks.

By Venice tradition, elaborately costumed Carnival-goers stroll through the canal-laced city showing off their finery, finished with hand-painted masks.

Venice police chief Angelo Sanna said the discussion about masks was approached "with balance and attention, because Carnival is the masks". He said spotchecks would be made of masked revellers to check identities.

Carnival opened Saturday and continues through to February 9.

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