PRAGUE (Dec. 9)
Security measures at key Jewish sites in Prague will not be increased following reports that Al-Qaida is planning a terrorist attack in the Czech capital, Jewish leaders told JTA.
On Sunday, an Israeli security official was quoted by the Yediot Achronot newspaper as saying that Israel had received a warning about an Al-Qaida attack in Prague.
Prague is a popular destination for Jewish tourists. Its centuries-old Jewish Quarter attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
After the official’s comments appeared Sunday, both the Prague Jewish community and Czech authorities said there was no indication that an attack was imminent.
“The information in this Israeli article does not bring anything new,” said the leader of the Prague Jewish community, Tomas Jelinek. “It is absolutely clear to everyone living in Prague that after the attack on Manhattan on Sept. 11, Jewish Prague could be a future target. It is a well-known Jewish treasure.”
Referring to a deadly Al-Qaida attack launched earlier this year against a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Jerba, Jelinek added, “It was the same scenario in April, when the synagogue in Tunisia was attacked. People said at the time that the same could happen to Prague.”
The Czech Interior Ministry said Monday there was no indication of an imminent attack.
“This information in the media about the Al-Qaida organization planning an attack on Israeli tourists in Prague has been checked by our Israeli partners and they have not confirmed it,” spokeswoman Gabriela Bartikova said.
Czech police also said they had no information about any specific threat, adding that they were not advising further security measures at sites popular with Jewish tourists. Security had already been tightened after the Sept. 11 attacks, they said.
The Israeli Embassy in Prague also said there were no plans to change its current security levels.
“We are always taking necessary measures to protect our interests here, and we are not taking any extra precautions because at this stage we do not have any concrete and official information,” embassy spokesman Walid Abu Haya said.
Hotels in Prague that are popular with Israeli tourists told JTA they have no plans to increase security until a concrete threat emerges.
The alleged threat is due to be discussed by the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities on Wednesday.
“Of course, any place in the world could be used as an attack against Jewish people, but there is no concrete information about the increase in danger just now in Prague,” the president of the federation, Jan Munk, told JTA.
Some, however, have cautioned that the Czech security services must avoid becoming complacent.
Roman Kupcinsky, editor of the Prague-based Radio Free Europe publication, “Crime, Corruption and Terrorism Watch,” said the reports should be taken seriously.
“The Czech Republic has been relatively lucky so far,” he said. “There is a serious risk, and officials must take common-sense precautions.”