Sunday, August 14, 2005

Terrorism and Prague?

Because the Greek plane that killed all 121 Cypriots on board was en route to Prague, it is a natural context to mention the likelihood that the Central and Eastern European cities such as Prague could be attacked.

Yesterday, the Czech daily Právo ("Law/right" which used to be called "Rudé právo" i.e. "The Red Law" and it was the leading communist daily) published several scenarios how (and why) Prague could be attacked by the terrorists.

Today, the Czech BIS (the FBI and CIA combined) seems to deny all the speculations, claiming that they have heard no credible signals and it would be strange if such complicated algorithms were used for a country that is not viewed as the primary target. Pavel Blažek, the author of the article, insists that his account is trustworthy.

Let me admit that the article in Právo looks more realistic to me than the completely cool reaction of the BIS. Although it is not clear what is the true origin of their information, they speculate about the following possibilities:
  • ultralight airplanes with 160 kilograms of explosives piloted by suicide pilots or remotely could explode at/near the Old Town Square; hundreds of casualties would be expected
  • the subway could be flooded by a massive explosion in the train while it is going under the Vltava river; the entrances to the subway are less secure than in London
  • an explosion in the Sazka aréna, the most modern multipurpose arena in the world, could kill hundreds of visitors
  • attacks against the Old-New Synagogue and/or the Jewish cemetery would sound natural, too

What are the potential reasons behind such an attack? For example, what is the Czech attitude towards the Palestinian issue? Around 1949, Czechoslovakia was very helpful in establishing the state of Israel. However, by the end of the communist era it was Arafat and other comrades who were painted as the closest friends of Czechoslovakia in the region.

After the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia's relations with Israel were improved once again. The Czech Republic was recently one of the "moderate" members of the coalition of the willing, with a couple of soldiers and doctors in Iraq (and Kuwait). Note that such a change of the attitude has often dramatic consequences. For example, Fidel Castro would almost certainly choose the Czech Republic as the target because this former best friend of his island became one of the main critics and sponsors of the U.N. resolutions against the human rights violations in Cuba.

More importantly, Prague is an important destination for the believing Jews - maybe as important as the Western Wall in Jerusalem, as Karol Sidon, the country's supreme rabbi, explained. The relevant sightseeings include the Synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, and the holocaust memorial. Many key people of the Jewish culture lived in Prague.

Právo claims that a list of 100 people from the environments of islamic terrorists and drug trafficking mafias who are planning the attacks (the latter group could realize the plans, for a certain amount of money) has been sent to the BIS. The daily also argues that an illegal group of Albanian citizens has been planning various similar attacks since 1998.


  1. There is zero possibility of terrorist attack In Prague, Lubos. You know that. But there is at least a slightly higher possibility that the city you are currently living in could be attacked by a nuclear bomb! At least that's what's being said by popular rumors.

    I wonder why one one has been talking about this? The possibility is real, and highest leaders of this country openly claimed that it is only a matter of when, not a matter of whether, that something much worst than 9/11 could happen.

    We need to take the possibility of such threats seriously, and talk about how we can prevent it from happening. Maybe we should encourage people to buy Geiger Counter and try to detect whether any nuclear bomb exists in the neighborhood?

  2. I know that it's a guesswork, but a nuclear attack against Boston simply seems less probable to me than new attacks against European cities.

  3. It's anybody's guess. But you really need to worry about the fact that there hasn't been any car bomb or subway explosion or anything of that nature, indicating either the US soil is in a vacuum state of terrorism, which is unlikely, or that a grand plot is being carried out. The fact of matter is the leaders of this nation is either officially silent and refuse to comment on this, or in other occasions explicitly hinted about the possibility. No one wants to stand out and discredit such talks as pure rumor.

    And don't forget they have a government contengency team of about 100 people always in the hidding, just in case the whole DC is wiped out. They never did that even during the cold war.


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