News of Radio Prague
Defence Minister plans to lay off 32,000 soldiers
Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka has said he is planning to close down ten garrisons in the Czech Republic and lay off as many as 32,000 members of the armed forces. Minister Kostelka announced his proposal for army reform on the commercial TV station Prima on Tuesday. He defended his plans by saying it was necessary to build a modern and well-equipped army with less money than the ministry had originally expected. Regional politicians are worried about people losing their jobs. Regions, for example, depend on army assistance in times of natural disasters.
US military arrests Iraqi official reported to have met September 11th hijacker in Prague
The US military has taken into custody an Iraqi intelligence official: Ahmad al-Ani, reported to have met with one of the ringleaders of the September 11th hijackers just months before the attacks on New York and Washington took place in 2001. According to some Czech officials Mr al-Ani met Mohammed Atta in Prague in April that year. Atta is one of the hijackers suspected of piloting one of two passenger jets into New York's World Trade Centre in the September 11th attacks. Neither the CIA nor the FBI, however, has confirmed that a Prague meeting between Atta and al-Ani took place.
Austrian Lower House ratifies accession of ten new EU members
The Austrian Lower House ratified the accession of 10 new members, including the Czech Republic, to the European Union on Wednesday. However, a motion put forward by the country's far-right Freedom Party, passed by the majority of present MPs, requested continued negotiations with Prague on the subject of the post-war Benes Decrees. The controversial decrees sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II; some 2.5 million were forced out, their property confiscated.
Interior Ministry annual report: extremism in Czech Republic in decline
A newly-released Interior Ministry annual report has shown that extremism in the Czech Republic has been in decline, losing ground for the first time since the end of the 1990s. According to the report the Czech secret service has played a dominant role in quelling extremist groups. The report further notes that extremism has been in decline on both sides of the political spectrum, with the anarchist movement slackening after failing to stage large protests in response to the NATO summit last November in Prague. The far-right movement has also declined, apparently because of concerted pressure by the police and infiltration of neo-Nazi organisations. Finally, although the total number of extremist crimes rose by 21 last year, a total of 470, the police did not register a single racially-motivated murder or murder attempt. Government human rights commissioner Jan Jarab, however, has pointed out that not all crimes are tabulated in police statistics.
Lower House approves sending troops to stabilise situation in Iraq
On Tuesday the Czech Lower House gave final approval to sending up to 400 troops as part of the international force to stabilise Iraq. The contingent will consist of members of the 7th military field hospital, 50 military policemen and 15 soldiers from units for civilian-military cooperation. The Czech military field hospital has been operating in the southern city of Basra since May. Under the plan, which was proposed and approved by the Czech Senate last month, the soldiers will come under British command.
Hasek announces return to NHL
The Czech star hockey goaltender Dominik Hasek has announced he will end his one-year retirement and return to the Detroit Red Wings next season. Dominik Hasek, who led the Czech Republic to Olympic gold in 1998 and the Detroit Red Wings to the 2002 Stanley Cup, is expected to step in as Detroit's number one goaltender, leaving Curtis Joseph's status uncertain. Last week Detroit set the stage for Hasek's return by picking up the 8 million dollar option on the 38-year-old goaltender for the 2003-04 season leaving the Wings with two high-priced net minders. Nicknamed the 'Dominator', Hasek spent most of his career with the Buffalo Sabres where he earned two Hart trophies as NHL's most valuable player.
Hasek will be allowed to travel
Meanwhile, a state prosecutor has confirmed that Dominik Hasek will be allowed to travel to the United States to rejoin the Detroit Red Wings despite facing charges for assault at home. Hasek was charged for an incident that took place in May during an in-line hockey match in which he allegedly broke an opponent's nose, and gave him a concussion. If found guilty of the attack Hasek could face two years in prison.
Shoot-out in south Bohemian town of Tabor
A shoot-out in the south Bohemian town of Tabor has left the assailant dead, another on the run, police say. The original assailant, approximately 30-years-old, opened fire at a man, approximately in his early 50s, on a Tabor street, hitting him in the leg. The other then returned fire, hitting his attacker with several fatal rounds. The man took the deceased's weapon before driving away from the scene, apparently to his home in the area. A police SWAT team is preparing to move in. The police have learned the identities of both men, but have declined to make public any motive for the attacks.
Gang of thieves led by 14-year-old ringleader
A five-member gang of thieves responsible for almost twenty muggings in the town of Ostrava, east Moravia, has been broken up by Czech police. The gang was surprisingly led by a 14-year-old ringleader, on the run from a juvenile corrections institute. The gang targeted mostly older citizens, stealing cash, cell phones, and jewellery, the most brutal assault taking place against an 81-year-old woman, from whom they took 1,000 crowns (approx. 34 US dollars). For the time being police have charged members of the gang for involvement in ten separate incidents.
Thursday is expected to be mostly cloudy with rainy periods and daytime temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius.