Daily news summary News

01-08-2004

Grenade attack outside Prague casino injures 18 people, mainly foreign tourists

At least 18 people were injured when a hand grenade was deliberately detonated on a busy pedestrian street in downtown Prague on Sunday afternoon. The incident is not being treated as a terrorist attack. Unconfirmed reports say the intended target was an Israeli casino owner whose own father, a purported underworld crime boss, was shot dead at the same location less than two year's ago. The attack occurred at about 12:30 in the afternoon on Na Prikope Street, a busy promenade not far from Prague's famous Wenceslas Square. The area is popular with shoppers and tourists. Most of those injured were foreign tourists, including an American couple, a British couple, a German and Slovak. Some accounts said the grenade was thrown from the window of a passing car. It exploded under a white Jeep Cherokee that bore American license plates from the state of New Jersey, the CTK news agency reported. The incident took place on the corner of Na Prikope and Havirska streets, in front of the Israeli-owned Casino Royal bar and restaurant. A police officer on the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency the likely target of the attack was the casino owner. Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross said the incident appeared to be the work of a criminal gang rather than a terrorist attack. "It was a criminal act, more or less a settling of accounts," said Mr Gross, who is the outgoing interior minister. He said there was a "good chance" the perpetrators would be arrested. The Casino Royal owner, Assaf Abutbul, was not injured in the attack, which came less than two years after his father, Felix, was gunned down not far from the casino's entrance, in August 2002. According to Israeli media reports, Felix Abutbul was an underworld crime boss in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya who operated illegal gambling operations in resort towns throughout Israel and whose nickname was "the butcher". Most of those injured in the attack in Prague on Sunday were having lunch or drinks at the casino and sustained only minor wounds from flying shrapnel and shards of glass. The main suspect in the attack is to be a young man who was often seen in the area. Prime Minister Gross said eyewitness descriptions were "quite solid and there is reason for optimism" that the attacker will be apprehended.

President Klaus reportedly 'displeased' with proposed list of candidates for ministerial posts

President Vaclav Klaus is due to hold talks with several candidates for ministerial posts in the new government of Prime Minister Stanislav Gross. According to unofficial reports, President Klaus, who chose Mr Gross to lead a new government, is not pleased with the draft list of Cabinet members that Mr Gross is due to submit to Prague Castle this week, and wants to interview several candidates in person.

All but three Social Democrat ministers will be asked to give up their seats in Parliament

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that only three ministers in his future Cabinet — Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Zdenek Skromach, Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal — will not be asked to give up their seats in Parliament. All other Social Democrat ministers in the new cabinet, including the premier, may be required to do so, so they can concentrate effectively on their ministerial work, Mr Gross told journalists on Saturday. The newly appointed Czech Prime Minister added that, as he finalises his proposed list of Cabinet members, he had informed the chairmen of the other coalition parties that the willingness of candidates to vacate their seats in Parliament would be "one of the factors" according to which he would choose new Cabinet members.

Activist criticises Czech bill on compensation to Romani victims of WWII

Brno-based Romany rights activist Karel Holomek has criticised Czech legislation aimed at compensating Roma who were interned in Czechoslovak labour camps during World War II as being too strict. Only descendents of Roma who are known to have died in the labour and concentration camps are entitled to compensation, he said. The Interior Ministry has received about 8,000 applications for compensation so far. Mr Holomek predicts that at most a few hundred people will receive compensation. He said he regretted the fact that that no experts, historians or Romani people were invited to participate in drafting the bill.

CzechTek festival attracts 15,000 techno fans

An estimated 15,000 fans of techno music have descended upon a field on the outskirts of Bonenov, some 130 kilometres west of Prague, for this year's CzechTek music festival. The location of the free event was kept secret up until the last moment. This is in part because organisers wanted to generate a sense of excitement among techno fans but mainly because CzechTek enthusiasts don't want to allow locals — and local officials — time to prevent the very loud techno fest from occurring.

Weather

Monday should be partly cloudy with a high of 27 degrees Celsius.

01-08-2004