Real danger of a possible terrorist attack confirmed in Prague

02-10-2001

Three armoured personnel carriers have been deployed outside the Radio Free Europe building - just across the street from Prague's Wenceslas Square, and road blocks have been erected in the streets around the building. The Czech authorities have tightened security because of the fear that the building might be a terrorist target due to its broadcasting of RFE programmes to countries neighbouring Afghanistan.

On Monday, the Czech Army Chief of Staff, General Jiri Sedivy and the Minister of the Interior, Stanislav Gross confirmed that the Czech Republic had been warned by ally intelligence services, that terrorists may attempt to attack some important buildings in the country, including Radio Free Europe. One alleged plan was to park explosives next to the building in a small lorry, said General Sedivy. A lorry loaded with explosives had been used three years ago to attack the US embassy in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi - an attack which left 213 people dead.

Ales Opat, the commander of the 43rd paratrooper battalion explained that the armed personnel carriers were there to act as mobile obstacles to shield the RFE building from an explosion. The fact that the vehicles are still outside the Radio Free Europe building may mean that the threat of attack still exists, although the troops patrolling Radio Free Europe will not disclose any details. "A terrorist with average intelligence could read the newspapers and thus learn to overcome the obstacles," said Mr. Opat.

Earlier on Tuesday Radio Prague spoke with Radio Free Europe's spokesperson, Sonja Winter and asked her how she felt about a potential terrorist threat:

"I read the same article in the press, and was a little bit surprised. If you read carefully, no one has really said what kind of a concrete threat, and we don't know of any threat here in the radio. All I can say is that since September 11th, we have been on higher alert, and additional security measures have been taken including the very visible armed transport carriers outside the building. But there's nothing that I can say, if there is such a threat, we don't know about it, I think it's simply sensible to expect that any American organisation abroad, and we are a very visible symbol of the US freedom of expression, could be a target."

02-10-2001