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Zeman: Man with suspected links to terrorists stays in ČR

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Prague, Jan 11 (CTK) – A man coming from North Africa and suspected of cooperation with terrorist Islam organisations is staying in Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman said on Czech Radio (CRo) on Wednesday.

He made the statement during a discussion about the new Centre against terrorism and hybrid threats, whose establishment by the Interior Ministry he criticises.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) reacted saying he would neither confirm nor refute Zeman’s information.

Zeman said he has read “four ciphers.”

“According to one of them, a certain person from Maghreb, whose name I must not identify, is strolling our country, being substantiatedly suspected of cooperation with terrorist Islam organisations,” Zeman said.

The people from the Interior Ministry’s new centre will not have this information, he said.

Asked by CRo whether the information may scare the public, Zeman said this is why he did not reveal the suspect’s name.

“This would be a violation [of rules]. If I tell you that the person comes from Maghreb, you certainly know that Maghreb includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and even Libya. This information is so vague that it threatens no one except the person concerned. I would even wish him to be endangered,” Zeman said.

He said he has released the information because it has worried him. In addition, by doing so, he answered the CRo’s question about the new Centre against terrorism and hybrid threats, he said.

In reaction to Zeman, Chovanec told journalists that there is no increased risk of a terrorist attack in the Czech Republic, according to the latest reports he received on Wednesday.

That is why there is no reason to raise the degree of terror danger warning or convoke the National Security Council (BRS), he said.

He wrote to CTK that Czech security forces continue operating. They monitor suspected people’s movement on Czech territory and deal with potential risks.

Later on Wednesday, Chovanec told lawmakers in parliament that information about similar people staying in the Czech Republic existed in the past already.

“More such people were monitored. It is better if such operations run secretly, closed to the public,” Chovanec said.

He said he would not comment on Zeman’s words because he does not have necessary detailed information.

According to him, Zeman evidently knew what he was talking about. “I think it is better not to make certain issues public,” Chovanec added.

Josef Kraus, political and security analyst from Brno-seated Masaryk University, said no state service or authority would either confirm or refute whether Zeman’s information is true.

However, if it were true and became public, it would pose an enormous risk for any operative steps, Kraus said.

“The man may disappear, he may watch out and interrupt his contacts with others, cease to speak on phone or even speed up his plan to make a terrorist attack,” Kraus told CRo.

“These are the reasons why similar pieces of information should not be released to the public. Unfortunately, the president showed several times in the past already that he lacks professionalism and competence in this respect and that he likes letting the cat out of the bag,” Kraus said.

The Czech secret services wrote in their annual report for 2015 that the Czech Republic serves mainly as a transit country for those who strive to join Islamic State activities.

The police registered several cases of such people using Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport. Some of them were arrested and extradited for criminal prosecution in their respective home countries. In some cases, the people stayed in the Czech Republic for a short time.

The Czech counter-intelligence service wrote that seven people left the Czech Republic for Syria in 2015 with the aim to join terrorist organisations. All came from the Islamic world and stayed in the Czech Republic for a short time.

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