Police say three arrested for dealing with Semtex


At the weekend, the Czech police announced that they had arrested three people from the East Bohemian town of Chrudim believed to have been involved in dealing with the infamous Czech-made plastic explosive, Semtex, as well as radioactive materials. More from Dita Asiedu:

Earlier this year, the Czech intelligence service sent out a warning signal, fearing that Semtex could easily get into the wrong hands. And they seem to have been right. The Czech police have announced that in mid-April they arrested two men and a woman just minutes before handing 33 kilos of Semtex, 267 electric detonators and 150 grams of the highly flammable chemical rubidium to men thought to belong to a Slovak criminal network. According to a Prague police spokeswoman, the Semtex alone could have been enough to level a 10 to 15-storey building. The Semtex combined with the rubidium, however, can be used to produce a so-called 'dirty bomb' that not only results in vast material destruction but also emits radioactivity. The three people arrested, who intended to sell the Semtex for half a million Czech crowns and the rubidium metal for 900.000 Czech crowns have been charged with illegal possession of arms and face up to 5 years in prison if found guilty.

In the 1970's and 80's, Semtex was very popular among terrorists. It acquired notoriety in December 1988 when it was used in the bombing of the Pan-Am Boeing-747 plane that crashed above Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. This incident, resulted in much criticism of Czechoslovakia labelling it as a country that sells explosives to terrorists. Earlier, we spoke to Stanislav Brebera, the inventor of Semtex:

"This is exactly what most people confuse. Terrorists can use any kind of explosive, it doesn't have to be Semtex, it can be the American C4, the British PE, even normal industrial explosives, anything. The French also produce it, they all do. But why it's so infamous is because it was exported to Libya and from there it got to the terrorist groups of the Arab world and to the IRA - to Britain. So, from Libya, it was easily accessible."

Yes, indeed. It is believed that tons of Semtex are still stored in depots in the Middle East. In the Czech Republic, however, it was not until earlier this year that security around the explosive was tightened - after many had warned that much of the Semtex stored in Czech army depots was easily accessible. This included 60 tons of so-called 'unmarked' Semtex that is neither detectable by machines nor specially trained dogs. Critics pointed to several cases where it was stolen during training and explosive work despite the army claiming to have strict security. As a result, security around the stored Semtex was tightened and the local Semtex factory 'Explosia' was brought back under state control. The question that arises now is when and from where the explosives seized in April were acquired.