IKEA has announced it is tightening security at all its stores in the Czech Republic, following a foiled bomb attack on one of its Prague outlets. All four stores were closed for security reasons on Friday after police defused a functional bomb at the IKEA store in Prague’s Zličín district. Czech news sources said the package was found by cleaning staff in a waste bin just outside the store. This is not the first attack on the Swedish group’s European outlets. Small explosive devices detonated at IKEA stores in the Netherlands, Belgium and France earlier this year. No one was seriously hurt in those incidents. All four IKEA stores in the Czech Republic opened to shoppers as usual on Saturday.
President Klaus has been trying to smooth ruffled feathers in Greece over an interview in which he referred to the Greeks as “ouzo drinkers sitting under the shade of cypress trees”. The president said his remark had been misinterpreted and had not been intended as an insult, and that he had only meant to emphasize that it was up to each EU member state to decide if it wanted to proceed on a quarter power, half power, or full power. He said Czech work performance also significantly lagged behind that of Germany, which was all the more reason for him not to be judgemental in this respect.
Police are investigating a tragedy in the village of Široký Důl, Svitavy: the murder of four siblings. Police and rescue workers were alerted to the scene at noon on Friday: investigators have not revealed details but the daily Právo reported the victims were between the ages of 10 and just two months. Their family had reportedly only just moved to the village. According to available information, the children had cuts and strangulation wounds. The mother, herself cut, reportedly tried to hang herself and is in hospital in critical condition. The police expressed shock over the tragedy, saying it was the worst such incident in recent memory.
Police closed off Prague’s Ikea stores in Zličín and Černý Most on
Friday and additional stores in Brno and Ostrava, over a bomb scare. A
was reportedly found by a security guard at the company's Zličín outlet,
who removed it and carried it to a garbage container after cutting the
wires. He then called the police. Bomb experts arrived at the scene to
assess the threat level and secure the area. Customers were evacuated from
the store but only after it was confirmed the item was functional. The
was then dismantled and sent to a lab for investigation.
Following the incident, Prague’s other Ikea store, Černý Most, across the city was also closed as were sites in Brno and Ostrava later on. All sites are being searched by specialists with sniffer dogs. It is not the first time Ikea has been targeted in such an incident: in the past, bombs were also found in Gent, Belgium, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and the French town of Lomme. Idnes.cz reported that Belgian officials found similarities between the separate incidents; it is not clear yet whether Prague’s is in any way related.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas – as well as a number of other Czech politicians – have come out against a Defence Ministry plan to partially reintroduce compulsory military service – namely in posts the army is having trouble filling. According to public broadcaster Czech TV, the military does not have enough drivers, pilots, mechanics or IT specialists. In a brief interview for Právo, the prime minister indicated different solutions were needed – pointing to Great Britain’s reserve troop system as an example. Other politicians interviewed by the paper, also against the plan, include the deputy chairman of the lower house’s defence committee, Jan Vidím, and Social Democrat shadow defence minister Jan Hamáček. The Czech Republic abolished compulsory military service on December 31st, 2004.
Government MPs passed a package of austerity measures in the lower house
on Friday affecting welfare and social benefits. The bill will, for
example, curb maternity grants and affect sick leave pay. It is the second
time the bill has been passed, as earlier this year the Constitutional
Court recognised as valid a complaint put forward by the Social Democrats,
who disagreed with the original manner the measures were approved in late
At the time, the government called a legislative emergency – a process by which Parliament adopts bills in a shortened procedure – to push through the original package. The Constitutional Court ruled its application in this case was unacceptable; however it gave the government until the end of 2011 to pass the bill again. The package will now go to the Senate, dominated by the Social Democrats who are opposed to the reforms.
In related news, government MPs on Friday approved raising the lower VAT rate affecting some goods and services from the previous 10 to 14 percent. The move will raise the prices of medicines, foodstuff, public transport, as well as books, newspapers and concert tickets in 2012, Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told the daily that by conservative estimates the lower VAT rate increase would bring in an additional 22 billion crowns. The prime minister, meanwhile, stressed that the increase would not be dramatic but the opposition Social Democrats have said that they will lower the rate if they win the next election, at least regarding food and medicine. Petr Nečas’s centre-right government aims to unify the existing higher and lower VAT rates at 17.5 percent in 2013.
Around 300 people took part in a rally in Varnsdorf, North Bohemia, on Friday protesting against local Roma residents; the municipality has seen a rise in violent crime and tension between the ethnic Roma and non-Roma communities in recent weeks, leading the police to reinforce patrols in the area. Demonstrators attempted to march to a local boarding house, and the crowd grew to 500 hundred, but participants were stopped by riot police. No incidents were reported. Officially the protest was supposed to have been against nuclear waste. The rally was reportedly organized by Lukáš Kohout, who was caught in 2002 pretending to be an aide to former MP and former foreign minister Jan Kavan.
The regional court in České Budějovice sentenced a 35-year-old Czech man to 18 years in prison on Friday for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend. The murder took place in January of this year. The defendant stalked and killed the 28-year-old victim at a senior home where she worked. He brutally attacked her with a baseball bat and then set her body on fire in an attempt to hide the evidence. Police arrested the suspect shortly after learning of the crime. The defendant admitted guilt to investigators but tried to blame his actions on anti-depressants.
Czech actress Iva Janžurová and former Czech president and playwright Václav Havel were awarded honorary citizenship of Prague 6 on Friday by the district’s mayor, Marie Kousalíková. At the ceremony Mr Havel was accompanied by his wife Dagmar; it was the former president’s first public appearance in some time. Due to poor health and in order to recover his strength, Mr Havel, who turns 75 in October, has been staying at his cottage. Friday’s ceremony was held at the Břevnov monastery.