Security experts and the public alike were left reeling on Sunday after a Czech TV station revealed that Iraqi intelligence agents working for Saddam Hussein plotted an attack on the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe. Spokesman Jan Šubert of the Czech intelligence service told TV Nova that the agents planned a machine gun and rocket propelled grenade attack on the building in a plot ordered by Saddam Hussein.
On Sunday, TV Nova aired an exclusive report with information that in 1999, Saddam Hussein ordered a terrorist attack that was to strike the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe, located at the time on Wenceslas square, in the heart of the city. In 2003, Czech intelligence officers discovered the plot and confiscated the weapons that Iraqi secret agents had stockpiled. Jan Šubert is the spokesman for BIS – the Czech counter-intelligence service.
“The weapons that we secured included 11 pistols, 4 Kalashnikovs, two Heckler-Koch submachine guns with silencers, some 2,000 rounds with magazines, and the most important thing, a portable, anti-tank rocket propelled grenade weapon also known as an RPG-7.”
Saddam Hussein spent significant amounts of money on these weapons, which were to be used in an attack on the US-financed radio station from where programs criticizing Mr. Hussein’s regime were broadcast around the world.
Iraqi secret agents were going to fire the missiles from the window of a flat they were planning to rent, located opposite the radio station, a mere 80 meters away. The threat was serious, says General Andor Šándor, a former Chief of Defense Intelligence who now works as an independent security consultant.
“If this was the place from which the RPG was supposed to be fired at Radio Free Europe, and based on the fact that how many months the whole attack was prepared by the Iraqi officers, I think it was pretty underway, and if it had not been interrupted by the counter-intelligence, we could have been faced with a successful attack on our territory and on Radio Free Europe.”
Czech intelligence officers began suspecting a planned attack in 1999 and started closely observing members of Iraq’s secret service DGI. One of the Czech agents managed to infiltrate the Iraqi embassy. The plot was exposed and the attack averted in 2003, when the Iraqis turned their weapons in to Czech authorities. According to the Czech counter-intelligence service, this was the third terrorist attack the agency was able to avert. Is Prague at risk of becoming the site of a terrorist attack? Andor Šándor again:
“In general, I’ve kept saying, that it’s not a matter of whether our territory could be a target for the terrorists, my point is that it just a question of the time when it will happen. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the people here should be afraid of any imminent attacks, but there are reasons why this country could be a target of terrorist attacks, because of our foreign policy and because of our involvement in NATO operations particularly in Afghanistan, so there are reasons why we should be afraid but as I said before, we should not be scared and it’s not definitely eminent, but you never know.”
Mr. Šubert said on TV Nova that the public had a right to know about Saddam Hussein’s planned attack, which also led to the eventual construction of protective concrete walls that were put in place after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington and complicated traffic nearby Wenceslas Square. Mr Šubert added that it wasn’t safe to disclose this information until recently, after Radio Free Europe had moved to a new, closely guarded building in Hagibor, further from the city centre.