Vehicles and soldiers from a Czech biochemical warfare unit were loaded onto a military transport plane on Monday as part of the Czech Republic's commitment to a possible war against Iraq. According to a Czech Army spokesman, the plane is the first of six aircraft scheduled to fly some 130 soldiers and 40 vehicles to a military base in Kuwait from a Prague airfield over the next few days. Following a US request for reinforcement, the Czech government gave its army the green light to deploy more than 350 members of the special unit whose experts can detect biological, chemical and radiological weapons on battlefields. The unit, however, can only enter Iraq if there is a UN mandate or weapons inspectors find proof of Iraq using biochemical or nuclear weapons.
January 27th, which is marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day in several European countries, including Germany, is to become an official state holiday in the Czech Republic. According to Education Minister Petra Buzkova and Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, Czechs will most likely officially commemorate this day as early as next year. The day remembers the victims of the holocaust as fifty-eight years ago, the Auschwitz concentration camp, in which some 4 million people, most of whom were Jewish, died, was liberated from the Nazis.
The Czech authorities have set up a Central Crisis Committee after Germany's Bild newspaper has claimed that around 20 Afghan extremists are heading for a number of destinations in Europe, including the Czech Republic. A similar committee was set up after the September 11th attacks on the United States. The head of the Czech Police, Jiri Kolar, said on Monday that the sources listed by the paper are currently being examined and the state of security in the country is being evaluated.
A Scottish paper, the Daily Record, reported on Monday that a man who has been wanted by the British police for a number of attacks is currently serving time in a Czech prison. Michael Dickson, believed to have been responsible for two IRA bomb attacks against British army bases, was recently arrested in the Czech Republic for cigarette smuggling. The 38-year-old Scottish national has been on the run from the British authorities since 1996, following several attacks on British bases in Northern Ireland and Osnabrueck, Germany. Police also believe him to have been involved in an attempted assassination of an informer. Mr Dickson, who was arrested by the Czech police shortly before Christmas currently faces charges for smuggling, as well as an extradition to Britain or Germany where he is wanted for terrorism.
The number of Czechs seeking asylum in Britain has decreased dramatically. According to the British government, up to 300 asylum seekers from the eastern European candidate countries for EU membership, especially the Czech Republic, were recorded weekly during the autumn of last year. Today, only a handful apply for asylum daily. Last year, a law was introduced in Great Britain stating that all ten candidate countries for EU membership are "safe". This has drastically reduced the chances of most Czechs, especially Roma, being granted asylum.
And finally a quick look at the weather. Tuesday has been forecast with partially cloudy skies and snow in places. Temperatures will reach a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius.
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