A series of quakes reaching 3,5 points on the Richter scale were registered overnight in the west of the country. The quake’s epicentre was near the town of Nový Kostel which experienced smaller tremors about a week ago. No injuries or damages are reported. Seismologists say there may be more small quakes in the coming days, but they are not expected to exceed 4 points on the Richter scale or do serious damage. The area is known for minor seismic activity, though the current quakes are the strongest in 100 years.
Police are out in force in the town of Varnsdorf which has witnessed growing ethnic tension between the majority population and the Roma minority. For the second day in a row hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against rising crime and the presence of the Romany minority in the town. Public anger reached a head following several serious incidents of racially motivated violence and street wars between Romany gangs. The local authorities are struggling to deal with the situation and there is concern that neo-Nazis could turn it in their favour.
A 36-year old woman who is believed to have killed her four children before attempting to commit suicide on Friday has reportedly regained consciousness in a Hradec Králové hospital, but doctors say she is in no condition to be questioned by police. The woman’s live-in partner came upon the scene of the tragedy on returning home from a trip. The four children, aged between 2 months and 8 years, had all been stabbed and bore the marks of strangulation. The woman, who is the prime suspect, had tried to hang herself in the barn. The tragedy is the worst in the country’s criminal history.
The website WikiLeaks on Friday released a large number of unedited US diplomatic cables relating to the Czech Republic. According to the daily Lidové noviny, which has published a number of excerpts in its Saturday edition, the cables refer to corruption in the Czech Republic and report that Marek Dalík, a close aide to former prime minister Mirek Topolánek, solicited a huge bribe from the Austrian weapons manufacturer Steyr. One of the cables is a lowdown on President Vaclav Klaus ahead of his official visit to the US in which he is described as “instinctively pro-American, but unafraid to criticize, a man overly proud of his intellect who likes stirring up controversy. ” Five prominent news organizations including the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel magazine have condemned the website for making more than 250,000 sensitive diplomatic cables public.
Three comic strips reflecting the life of the Romany minority in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have just hit bookshelves in France, published by the Ca et La publishing house. The work of Romany students, the strips are “documentary” in character and tell the life-stories of a 60-year-old ailing and poverty-stricken Romany man, a 12 year-old Romany girl from Prague and a 45-year-old Romany woman who spent most of her life in various Romany settlements in Slovakia. The work was co-financed by the European Cultural Fund.
IKEA has announced it is tightening security at all its stores in the Czech Republic, following a foiled bomb attack on one of its Prague outlets. All four stores were closed for security reasons on Friday after police defused a functional bomb at the IKEA store in Prague’s Zličín district. Czech news sources said the package was found by cleaning staff in a waste bin just outside the store. This is not the first attack on the Swedish group’s European outlets. Small explosive devices detonated at IKEA stores in the Netherlands, Belgium and France earlier this year. No one was seriously hurt in those incidents. All four IKEA stores in the Czech Republic opened to shoppers as usual on Saturday.
President Klaus has been trying to smooth ruffled feathers in Greece over an interview in which he referred to the Greeks as “ouzo drinkers sitting under the shade of cypress trees”. The president said his remark had been misinterpreted and had not been intended as an insult, and that he had only meant to emphasize that it was up to each EU member state to decide if it wanted to proceed on a quarter power, half power, or full power. He said Czech work performance also significantly lagged behind that of Germany, which was all the more reason for him not to be judgemental in this respect.
Police are investigating a tragedy in the village of Široký Důl, Svitavy: the murder of four siblings. Police and rescue workers were alerted to the scene at noon on Friday: investigators have not revealed details but the daily Právo reported the victims were between the ages of 10 and just two months. Their family had reportedly only just moved to the village. According to available information, the children had cuts and strangulation wounds. The mother, herself cut, reportedly tried to hang herself and is in hospital in critical condition. The police expressed shock over the tragedy, saying it was the worst such incident in recent memory.
Police closed off Prague’s Ikea stores in Zličín and Černý Most on
Friday and additional stores in Brno and Ostrava, over a bomb scare. A
was reportedly found by a security guard at the company's Zličín outlet,
who removed it and carried it to a garbage container after cutting the
wires. He then called the police. Bomb experts arrived at the scene to
assess the threat level and secure the area. Customers were evacuated from
the store but only after it was confirmed the item was functional. The
was then dismantled and sent to a lab for investigation.
Following the incident, Prague’s other Ikea store, Černý Most, across the city was also closed as were sites in Brno and Ostrava later on. All sites are being searched by specialists with sniffer dogs. It is not the first time Ikea has been targeted in such an incident: in the past, bombs were also found in Gent, Belgium, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and the French town of Lomme. Idnes.cz reported that Belgian officials found similarities between the separate incidents; it is not clear yet whether Prague’s is in any way related.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas – as well as a number of other Czech politicians – have come out against a Defence Ministry plan to partially reintroduce compulsory military service – namely in posts the army is having trouble filling. According to public broadcaster Czech TV, the military does not have enough drivers, pilots, mechanics or IT specialists. In a brief interview for Právo, the prime minister indicated different solutions were needed – pointing to Great Britain’s reserve troop system as an example. Other politicians interviewed by the paper, also against the plan, include the deputy chairman of the lower house’s defence committee, Jan Vidím, and Social Democrat shadow defence minister Jan Hamáček. The Czech Republic abolished compulsory military service on December 31st, 2004.
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