The Czech counter-intelligence service has confirmed that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein planned a terrorist attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty at a time when the broadcaster was located in the centre of Prague, at the former Federal Assembly building near the top of Wenceslas Square. The news website tn.cz, which broke the story on Sunday, said the roots of the plan dated back to 1999: Mr Hussein allegedly wanted the attack carried out to silence broadcasts to Iraq by the US-funded RFE. The attack, BIS has confirmed, was to have been conducted by terrorists making use of an RPG 7 anti-tank weapon fired from a nearby building. The counter-intelligence service thwarted the move through an agent within the Iraqi embassy. Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown in 2003 after Iraq was invaded by US-led troops. In April of the same year weapons - that had been smuggled into the Iraqi embassy in Prague for use in the planned attack - were handed over to the Czech authorities.
President Václav Klaus has appointed three new ministers to the caretaker government. The appointments mark the first change to the government’s composition since it took office in the early summer. Juraj Chmiel, the Czech Republic’s former ambassador to Australia, has become Minister of European Affairs, a vacancy created by the nomination of the former minister to the post of European commissioner. Deputy environment minister Jan Dusík has taken the head seat in that ministry as outgoing minister Ladislav Miko returns to the EU’s environmental protection directorate. The third change involves the creation of a new cabinet post, that of the chairman of the government’s legislative council. That position will now be held by Social Democrat nominee Pavel Zářecký.
The District Court in the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice has confirmed a three-year prison sentence for the singer of a neo-Nazi music band for hate speech and promotion of fascism. The 29-year-old man was one of those arrested in a series of police raids on the organisers of neo-Nazi concerts and faced up to eight years incarceration. He was convicted for having produced CDs with lyrics praising National Socialism and calling for a “white revolution”.
The H1N1 swine flu virus claimed two lives over the last three days, bringing the number of deaths in the Czech Republic in which the illness was a factor to ten. A hospital in the eastern town of Opava announced Monday that a 21-year-old girl had died at the weekend after a chronic illness from which she suffered was compounded by swine flu. In the town of Jičín, to the north-east of Prague, a 30-year-old man died on Monday of heart failure due to complications from pneumonia and the H1N1 virus.
A survey published Monday the polling agency CVVM suggests that a vast majority of Czechs have welcomed the cancellation of plans for a US radar in the country. According to the poll, 80% of people are pleased that the radar base will not be built, while 12% are disappointed by the decision. 52% of respondents felt that the cancellation would have a positive influence on the country’s security. The radar base was conceived by the Bush administration as part of a missile defence system that was to work in concert with interceptor missiles in Poland. The plan was widely unpopular among Czechs throughout the three years it was being discussed. Another poll released by the same agency Monday indicated that the perception of US foreign policy in the Czech Republic has improved significantly since last year, from 18% to 27%.
Three people were injured at the Christmas market on Prague’s Náměstí Míru on Monday in a fire that burnt down four of the sales stands. None of the injuries were critical. The fire was apparently caused by a gas leak in a pastry stand. The four stands were entirely consumed within eight minutes; two gas cylinders inside them were unscathed, however. Christmas markets officially opened around Prague last Saturday.
Industrial production in the Czech Republic declined in October by 7.3% compared to the same month last year. The Czech Statistical Office released the data, which also shows an 11.3 decrease year-on-year in the value of new orders and sales from production activities in current prices. The drop is however a slight improvement on the year-on-year for the previous month of September.
Assuming it does well in next year’s election, the country’s newest political party TOP 09, which elected members of its party leadership on Saturday, has outlined as key the need to reduce the state budget deficit by 1 percent GDP per year. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, the newly-confirmed party chairman Karel Schwarzenberg said such a move would stabilise public finances within five years, allowing the country to adopt the euro in 2015. Mr Schwarzenberg stressed that Czech adoption of the European currency was a pragmatic decision for his party, rather than an ideological one. The former foreign minister, who is 71, won 99 percent of party delegates’ votes on Saturday; other key members elected to the leadership include the former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek.
Police have arrested a man suspected of a brutal attack in a public boarding house in Mělník, north of Prague. Six people were injured - five of them seriously - in the incident. Ambulance workers called to the scene suggested the assailant had used either an axe or a hammer in the attack. Police and additional backup were called to the scene ahead of the suspects’ arrest; officers are investigating further.
The Foreigners Police in Brno detained several people in an extensive series of checks on Saturday, including a Mongolian suspect wanted for theft. Police also stopped five runaways from a local orphanage. Three foreigners from Ukraine and Mongolia, who were in the country illegally, were also detained and face deportation. In the raid, some 50 police officers checked IDs of 1,500 individuals. The checks took place at Brno shopping centres and other areas.
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