Checking the news this rainy Saturday morning I find this one from ČeskÃ© noviny. Since their English desk probably has the weekend off, I’m translating:
PRAGUE/BRUSSELS – Police broke up a six-member gang equipped with ten kilograms of explosives and booby-trap trigger systems using mobile phones. During a check they also found pistols and machine gun parts, 7600 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, and ten kilograms of gunpowder, police spokeswoman Blanka KosinovÃ¡ said.
The suspects held 3.5 kilograms of black Semtex, 6.2 kilograms of TNT with triggers and other electronic parts, schematic diagrams and designs for making explosive systems. Some of these were found in computers. Police broke up the gang, which built and traded weapons, after an 8-month investigation. Their members face up to 8 years in prison. A judge will rule on their sentences.
Europe has been shaken last week by the terrorist attack in Spain, in which 200 people were killed and 1500 were injured. The culprits in Madrid set off bombs that used mobile telephones. Tightened security measures have taken effect in the Czech Republic as well. In connection with this, there is also discussion of whether secret services should have the right to cut mobile telephone service in an attempt to stop bombs triggered by phones.
According to Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, breaking up the gang is evidence of the police’s good work. He also believes it is not necessary to increase security measures in the Czech Republic. “There isn’t a reason for us to change any of our security measures. On the contrary, this is evidence that the police are beginning to fulfill their role,” Gross said in Brussels after taking part in an extraordinary meeting of interior ministers to discuss Europe’s reaction to the Madrid attacks. “I would not put this case in the context of international terrorism,” he added.
The minister pointed out that aside from visible security operations, he is relying on police special operations. “Our responsibility is to reveal possible risks and defend against them before they happen,” he said.
Police arrested five men and one woman Wednesday, all Czechs, in Plzeňsku, Tachov and Cheb. The police commision is charging them with illegal arms possession, development, manufacture and holding forbidden weapons materials, and with breaking laws governing the sale of military materials abroad.
Detectives from the Organized Crime Division found four remote-controlled explosives systems. Each of these was filled with roughly one kilogram of TNT, a police spokesman said.
The head of the anti-extremist department of the Organized Crime Division, JiřÃ KopečnÃ½, said the risk that weapons and explosives would fall into the hands of terrorists exists in every country, and that the Czech Republic is no exception. The seized amount of Semtex and TNT could cause huge damage. “Experts say 150 grams of Semtex is enough to destroy an airplane,” KopečnÃ½ said.
Detectives found five pistols, one with a silencer, a homemade machine gun, parts to the military ’58’ machine gun, a ’59’ universal machine gun and other guns. “All components and weapons are of homemade origin, and they are part of the investigation and how we found the suspects,” KosinovÃ¡ said.
In one of the home searches, police also found a complete hydroponic facility for growing marijuana, where they found 3.5 kilograms of marijuana ready for sale and 80 plants.