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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Czech Police Thwart Plot to Kill President

PRAGUE -- Police on Friday were holding five men of Yugoslav origin, suspected of plotting to assassinate Czech President Vaclav Havel, apparently in retaliation for his call for military intervention in the Bosnian civil war.

The five were netted in a raid on a bar in Prague's Old Town district Thursday, while a sixth was still at large, according to police sources. Government sources Friday commented only that an investigation was "underway".

Czech Interior Minister Jan Ruml revealed that police "received an anonymous letter threatening that an attack on the president of the republic was to take place at a certain day on a certain time".

The police deduced the identity of those involved, largely because the Yugoslavs had been under surveillance for some time on an unrelated case. In the raid, an automatic weapon and small arms were also seized.

According to the local press the text of the anonymous letter linked the assassination plot to "pro-Bosnian" statements by Havel, among them that "intervention" was needed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Police sources said that all five Yugoslavs have criminal histories and at least one is sought by the German branch of Interpol on murder charges.

The five have been remanded in protective custody, and police now have 30 days to conclude their investigation. Should there be insufficient evidence for a trial, a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor said, all will be declared persona non grata and deported.

The Czech president was reportedly informed of the letter and of developments. He has not issued an official reaction.

Violence in Czech political life, apart from the 1950's, has only occurred twice this century. In 1923, the Czechoslovak finance minister was assassinated, and later that year. Foreign Minister Edvard Benes was the target of an abortive attack.