Czech authorities have condemned brutal terrorist attacks which struck Norway on Friday killing at least 91 people. At least seven people died in an explosion at government offices in Oslo, and an additional 84 people or more were killed in a shooting rampage at an island youth camp outside the city. One Norwegian national is in custody in connection with the attacks. The Czech Foreign Ministry released a statement expressing shock and regret. In its statement it said the Czech Republic was ready to provide assistance. It also reiterated that it was necessary for the international community to stand together against the threat of terrorism. It is not yet clear who is behind the Norway attacks; early reports suggested responsibility by Islamic militants, but it is now thought to have been conducted by homegrown far-right extremists, as the suspect in custody allegedly belonged to an extremist group. The attacks have been widely condemned by the US, the European Union, NATO and others.
The Czech police have tightened security measures in reaction to the terrorist attacks in Norway on Friday, police spokesman Jan Melsa confirmed; he described the measures taken as preventative. Patrols at Czech airports and at key areas in the capital and around the country were heightened as of Friday afternoon. The spokesman said the measures would not directly affect citizens. He also stressed that the police do not have any information that the Czech Republic was facing any danger. The police are, however, assessing the situation in coordination with foreign colleagues.
Water levels on a number of swollen rivers in north-eastern Bohemia and Moravia began subsiding on Friday night, leaving high flood alerts only on the Dědina and Orlice, where levels, however, have also fallen. With the risk of floods abating and conditions improving on Friday, families who had been evacuated from their homes in areas began returning. Despite improvements, some 170 people were nevertheless evacuated from local summer camps. Some lower-category roads had been closed in the Liberec, Hradec Králové regions and parts of northern Moravia. Earlier in the week some rail routes had been closed because they were either waterlogged or hampered by fallen trees. The Czech Republic was hit by disastrous floods one year ago, which caused major damage and claimed several lives.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda is no longer being guarded by a special police detail, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Friday on its iDnes site, saying the mayor was no longer receiving death threats in the form of letters or text messages. The mayor was given the extra guard at the beginning of this year after he began receiving threats last December. Police are continuing to look for the perpetrator. The threats, vulgar in nature, reached their peak in February and March when an unknown party slashed the tires on the mayor’s car parked near his home and sent him a package of photographs of his family complete with TNT powder. No detonator was included and there was no danger of an explosion, the daily writes. According to Mf Dnes, the police unit was called off a fortnight ago and the mayor has declined to speculate on why the threats stopped.
Some 150 right-wing extremists staged a march through the town of Svitavy on Saturday in support of imprisoned skinhead Vlastimil Pechanec who was convicted of the murder of a Svitavy Romany man in 2001. Some 130 riot police members, including officers on horseback, and a police helicopter monitored the march during which no incidents were registered a police spokeswoman told the ČTK news agency. Participants carried posters proclaiming Mr Pechanec’s innocence and met on the square. Far-right extremists have held demonstrations in Svitavy for several years.
A 47-year-old motorist in the area of Písek, South Bohemia, was lucky to escape with only minor injuries after failing to heed warning lights at a local train crossing and colliding with an express train, news website idnes has reported. The collision affected only the back of the car; 25 people on the train were unhurt. The accident took place on Saturday morning and transport along the route was stopped for several hours. An inspection team from Czech Railways is looking into the cause of the accident; the driver explained to the police that it was likely he had been unable to see the flashing signal due to sharp sunlight. Transport on the route has since resumed.
A 48-year-old woman from the Mělník area, north of Prague, is fighting for her life a day after allegedly dousing herself in gasoline and setting herself alight. Relatives found the woman in her home at five in the morning on Friday. She was airlifted to a Prague hospital where she remains in critical condition. The police are investigating the incident but have not learned why the woman attempted to take her life.
Persistent rain throughout the country has raised the water levels of rivers in northern Bohemia and Moravia, leading the authorities to issue high alert warnings in places: the most serious conditions on Friday were registered in the regions of Liberec, Hradec Králové and Šumperk. Meteorologists expect conditions to improve later in the Jizerský and Krkonoše Mountains, but to worsen elsewhere, namely in the Orlické, Jeseník and Beskid Mountains in north-eastern Moravia. Continued rainfall has led to the closure of several roads and bridges in Moravia; in one case, 45 children were evacuated from a summer camp but without incident. Water breaking the banks of the Morava River, meanwhile, has led to minor local flooding. Elsewhere, in western Bohemia, the danger of floods has gone down since Wednesday.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, in an interview for the Friday edition of the daily Hospodářské noviny, said that he was willing to discuss introducing progressive taxation for a limited period of time on condition that junior coalition member Public Affairs support the introduction of a unified VAT rate of 19 percent. Previously, Public Affair’s leadership had said that unless income was taxed progressively, they were not willing to support this step, which would put a significant burden on middle-class taxpayers and low-income groups. This is the first time that the finance minister has publicly said he was willing to consider progressive taxation. However, he added that changing the income tax rate for higher-income groups was out of the question. Instead, he said, progressive taxation could be introduced by changing other parameters, such as tax breaks for lower income taxpayers.
The justice minister, Jiří Pospíšil, has revealed that has he has honoured a proposal calling for the dismissal of the head of the High State Attorney’s Office Vlastmil Rampula. The minister told reporters on Friday that he had taken the decision a day earlier, in light of actions Mr Rampula took while in office: one was issuing an unsubstantiated order for subordinates not to appeal in an asset-stripping case involving the defunct IPB bank; other mistakes, according to the minister, included the mismanagement of staff. The Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman proposed that Rampula be dismissed back in March citing serious violations of the high state attorney's duties. The Czech branch of Transparency International, meanwhile, had called for Mr Rampula’s dismissal calling it a necessary step to restore public trust in the state attorney´s office.
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