Police say they've arrested an elderly man believed to be responsible for 18 bomb attacks over the last five years. The 68-year-old man was arrested near an East Bohemian monument to Czech-German friendship which he is believed to have been trying to destroy with a bomb. The man is suspected of placing explosives on railway lines, in hospitals and at monuments throughout the country. Only in one case did he demand a ransom. The man tried to stab himself as he was being taken into custody and is now being treated in hospital.
The co-owner of a disco in Karvina has been charged over a fire which killed a teenager and seriously injured 30 others in October. Police said the man is alleged to have brought two fireworks into the club. The fireworks were lit by a second man, who has also been charged. The fireworks were allegedly lit on the dance floor, sending sparks into the ceiling and causing a blaze which rapidly engulfed the club. Most victims suffered burns to the head and arm from molten plastic. There were some 220 people inside the club at the time. A 17-year-old girl died after inhaling poisonous smoke.
Police say they have now arrested a total of four youths involved in a fatal shooting incident which took place outside a club in Most, North Bohemia on Saturday night. Two youths were shot dead by security guards after a gang armed with baseball bats tried to force their way inside. The security guards say they fired on the youths in self-defence. Police are still considering whether to file manslaughter charges over the killings. The four youths now in custody have been charged with hooliganism.
Reports say Czech consumers have been stocking up on alcohol and petrol to avoid major tax increases to be introduced on January 1st. A few large stores in Prague had reportedly sold out of the most popular brands of alcohol, and some store shelves could be empty before New Year's Day when tax on alcohol rises an average of 16 crowns. Taxes on cigarettes, fuel, telecommunications, hairdressers, plumbers and many other services will jump in 2004 as part of the government's package of public finance reforms recently approved by parliament.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said if the public finance reforms are successful, the Czech Republic could become one of the most developed nations of the ten countries which join the European Union on May 1st. Mr Spidla pointed to the position of the Czech Kingdom during the reign of Charles IV, a time when as he put it the Czech nation belonged to a European "superclass". Mr Spidla said in his opinion the Czech Republic could do so again.
A spokesman for the prime minister has said he will not take part in a traditional New Year's Eve fun run because of an injury. Mr Spidla, who jogs up to 15 kilometres each day, will not take part in the annual New Year's run in Jihlava because he is recovering from a strained muscle. Mr Spidla caused a minor stir during an official visit to Washington this summer, when he ran too fast for U.S. Secret Service agents assigned to protect him during an early morning jog.
Wednesday will be an overcast day with rain and snow in many parts of the country. Temperatures in the daytime will range between zero and four degrees Celsius, falling at night to lows of -5 degrees.
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