Terrorist attack in the US - Czechs condemn the dreadful deed

TV and radio sets playing loud in restaurants and shops, crowds of people watching and listening, heated debates in the streets. Tuesday's unprecedented terrorist attacks against the United States shocked the whole of the Czech Republic. People called radio stations and newspaper offices to learn more about the disaster, and Czech public radio and TV broadcast special programmes throughout the evening. Nick Carey has the details.

Czech politicians have strongly condemned the terrorist attack against the United States and president Vaclav Havel said he was devastated by the tragedy:

"On behalf of our country, and all our citizens I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the relatives of the victims and I would like to assure the American people that we are on their side, and are willing to help in any way possible. I see it as an attack on human freedom, as an attack on democracy and I think that it is a great warning to civilization, calling on us to mobilize to the utmost our sense of responsibility for the world we live in. Fanatics and madmen must not be allowed to hold us all hostage."

Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who is currently in hospital, expressed deep sympathy with the American people, and the Czech Foreign minister, Jan Kavan made the following statement:

The chairman of the Lower house Vaclav Klaus described events in the United States as shocking and unbelievable:

"I'm not just devastated by this dreadful human tragedy but by the gravity of this attack against the whole of modern civilization. I feel utter contempt for those who did not hesitate to sacrifice the lives of innocent people to achieve their goals. We now have to stand united to protect the fragile and vulnerable world we live in."

Vice-premier Vladimir Spidla announced that the Czech Republic would offer its help:

"In this hard time for the United States, the Czech Republic is prepared to provide all the possible help to the American people. The Czech government calls on all Czech citizens to express their strong opposition against all forms of terrorism."

Meanwhile, Health Minister, Bohumil Fiser announced that his ministry had already contacted the United States with offers of help, but at present it is difficult to ascertain what assistance will be required. Czech humanitarian organizations, as well as rescue teams with specially trained sniffer dogs have also offered help.

Representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches in the Czech Republic have condemned the attack on innocent people as cowardice. In Olomouc, Archbishop Jan Graubner said that he was praying for the victims and the bereaved. Church masses were held throughout the country, and at noon Wednesday, all church bells were rung as a mark of respect. Flower bouquets, dozens of burning candles and an inscription reading "We are with you" can be seen outside the US embassy building in downtown. The US flag above the embassy is at half mast.

Alena Skodova spoke with the political analyst Jan Urban, and asked him first what were the major security implications of this unprecedented attack on the Czech Republic.

"I think - which is the main lesson - that the response by Czech authorities was adequate and I really was glad and welcome the assurance of Czech authorities to behave and act as part of the international community in pursuing every lead to he terrorist attack and its organizers and take part in the world-wide hunt and discussions on measures against future possible attacks."

"What might be possible implications for the Czech Republic as a NATO member, because some describe the attack as an act of war, and under NATO regulations when one country is attacked, then it's considered as an attack against the whole alliance...."

"I would be more careful in using legally binding expressions like war, nevertheless this kind of horrendous terrorist attack implies the same measures being taken by all NATO countries and you can hear from all the NATO capitals the same message: it is an attack against all of us, so I think that NATO is not at all shattered, and that this attack will strengthen the alliance and the Euro-Atlantic alliance."