19-09-2001

The papers today are, not surprisingly, full of reports on the threat of strikes on Afghanistan by the United States, the refusal of the Taleban movement to hand over Osama bin Laden, and the Taleban's call on Tuesday for volunteers to fight a Jihad, or Holy War, if the United States attacks.

There are pages and pages of articles in all of the main papers about the aftermath of the attacks in the United States, and the Bush Administration's attempts to form an international coalition to fight terrorism. On the home front, LIDOVE NOVINY carries an article claiming that one of Osama bin Laden's close associates, Wahid El Hage, a Lebanese national, travelled to Czechoslovakia several times to purchase tractors, but more worryingly, agricultural chemicals for the production of explosives.

Wahid El Hage was sentenced to life in prison this year for his part in the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya in 1998. During questioning, says the paper, he admitted having visited Czechoslovakia several times in the early 1990s, and sought out chemicals from agricultural companies that can be used to make bombs. He then passed on this information to bin Laden in Sudan, and bought unknown quantities of these chemicals, reports LIDOVE NOVINY.

MLADA FRONTA DNES features an interview with the Afghan ambassador to the Czech Republic, Abdul Zaher Salyogi. Mr Salyogi represents the Islamic state of Afghanistan, and opposes the Taleban, which has no representatives in the Czech Republic. He is one hundred percent convinced that Osama bin Laden is behind the attacks on the USA last week, and says that the northern alliance to which he belongs is willing to help the USA in any way in its efforts to fight terrorism.

Mr Salyogi also tells the paper that members of his alliance have been trying to draw international attention to the situation in Afghanistan. They were received in NATO countries, but their advice was not heard. The United States, he says, reacted by saying that the Taleban and Afghanistan were too far away to cause much trouble. But recent events have shown that they are not so far away after all. Now, Mr Salyogi tells MLADA FRONTA DNES, the fate of Afghanistan is more closely linked with that of the international community than ever before.

PRAZSKE SLOVO features an article on the potential threat posed by terrorists to the Czech Republic. Following the attacks in the USA last week, the paper says, Czech politicians have stated publicly that the Czech Republic is not in any immediate danger. But behind the scenes, widespread police operations have been launched to protect high-risk sites, such as airports and the country's dams.

The paper quotes an agent from the Czech secret services as saying that Islamic fundamentalist terrorism poses a threat to all states, even the Czech Republic. The best way to fight this type of terrorism, the agent says, is through the secret services. But in a democratic society, this task is made more difficult, because of the rights and freedoms of the individual. PRAZSKE SLOVO also quotes the head of the Czech Institute for International Relations, Radek Khol, who says the attacks on the United States represent a new type of terrorism, and that the world, the Czechs included, should be ready for anything.

Another topic that makes the headlines in all the papers today is that charges have been filed against controversial businessman Viktor Kozeny, one of the most notorious figures in the post-communist history of the Czech Republic. Mr Kozeny, who currently resides in the Bahamas, has been charged with illegally transferring 11.5 billion Czech crowns, or some 300 million US dollars, out of the investment company Harvard Funds, which has since gone bankrupt, to accounts in Cyprus. A further 250 million Czech crowns was also allegedly transferred out of the company through a subsidiary.

Under the headline "Kozeny charged with fraud" MLADA FRONTA DNES says that Kozeny has until next Tuesday to officially respond to the charges. The paper carries an interview with Mr Kozeny himself, in which he categorically denies the charges against him. The main transaction, he says, was all in order, as it was a straightforward investment. As to the lesser amount, Mr Kozeny says he has no knowledge of that particular deal.

The problem facing the Czech police, says MLADA FRONTA DNES, is that the Czech Republic has no extradition agreement with the Bahamas, so it will be difficult to bring him to court. If an international arrest warrant is issued for Mr Kozeny, the paper concludes, the best the Czechs can hope is that he visits a country that has an extradition agreement with the Czech Republic.

19-09-2001