Czech Republic assesses security situation following Boston attack

A Boston police officer wheels in injured boy following an explosion during the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013, photo: CTK

Many people around the world, including in the Czech Republic, were shocked and saddened to learn of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday which killed three people and injured more than 170 others. In the Czech Republic, security has been heighted at some sites, such as the US Embassy. In response to Monday, it will also be boosted during Prague’s own marathon next month.

Explosion during the Boston Marathon,  April 15,  2013,  photo: YouTube
Earlier, I spoke to security expert and former chief of Czech Defence Intelligence Andor Šandor, asking him about some of the lessons of Monday’s attack.

“I would say that the terrorists showed us that if they really try, they can pull off an attack, that in a democratic society you cannot 100 percent ensure that everything will always be perfect and that everything will always be safe. It’s a problem of today’s world and unfortunately we will have to live with it for a long time to come.”

What is ‘attractive’ about a sporting event for a terrorist’s purposes?

“When they choose this kind of a sporting event they knew perfectly well that it would be pretty difficult for the police and other security services to monitor and to protect all the people involved, be they runners taking part, onlookers, shop owners and so on. If you have a marathon that runs 42 kilometres through the city where people live, where there are shops, restaurants, apartments, you cannot put all security measures in place, you literally can’t look at everyone in the area. It definitely is not protectable and that may have been a reason the event was chosen as a target.”

Andor Šandor,  photo: Czech Television
So far it seems to have proven difficult to learn more about possible perpetrators: there are different theories circulating in the media about who may have orchestrated the attack. To your knowledge are there are any factors pointing more either towards amateur groups or to organised terrorist organisations?

“I would caution at this point anyone rushing to any premature conclusions, speculating whether it was the work of Islamist terrorists or right-wing nationalists. We have no choice but to wait for the police and for the FBI to conduct their investigations, putting forward real information that really proves who did it.

“While there are early indications that the bombs were amateurish in design there may be reasons for that: anyone wishing to avoid detection by intelligence services may purposely have bought everyday materials that can also be used to produce an explosive so they wouldn’t be caught. The question is, whether the bomb was ‘amateur’ by mistake or by design. We really can’t say now and we have to wait for the FBI to look into the matter. The fact is all bombs have a certain signature and the US has a lot of experience in analysing such data, at the very least with explosive devices in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In terms of response here in the Czech Republic, the police have enhanced security at the US Embassy... and will take other steps: how do you think the Czech security forces will be assessing the situation and potential risks?

A Boston police officer wheels in injured boy following an explosion during the Boston Marathon,  April 15,  2013,  photo: CTK
“I think that we are in a different situation that either the US or Great Britain; that said, I don’t want to minimize the risks or say that we live in a perfect world, however. The security services do what they can and in particular with the Prague Marathon taking place on May 12 to try and ensure nothing like what happened in Boston happens in Prague.”

What are some concrete steps they will take?

“Well, certainly the police will have to inspect all places where bombs could be hidden. Obviously they will also go through their files and assess individuals with past histories who could be dangerous, and send out signals that you are after them. Of course you cannot 100 percent guarantee that an attack like the one in Boston can’t happen in Prague, but they will certainly do everything they can.”