Intelligence official confirms Iraqi threat against RFE/RL

New York, March 26, 2003–A senior Czech intelligence official alleged today that Iraqi agents planned to carry out an attack against the Prague-based headquarters of U.S. government­funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Jiri Ruzek, director of the State Security Service (BIS), told the Czech Service of the BBC in an interview today that the purpose of the attacks was to terminate the broadcasts of Radio Free Iraq, RFE/RL’s Arabic-language service broadcasting news into Iraq.

Ruzek also confirmed that five Iraqi diplomats were expelled from the Czech Republic last week as a result of their intelligence activity.

“We have no new information about a threat against us, but there has been an ongoing threat since we started broadcasting [to Iraq] in 1998,” said Sonia Winter, an editor at RFE/RL.

Radio Free Iraq was launched by RFE/RL in 1998. During the last two years, there have been numerous unconfirmed reports that the RFE/RL headquarters was a potential terrorist target. On April 22, 2001, Czech authorities expelled Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani for allegedly surveilling RFE/RL’s headquarters as part of a possible terrorist attack on the building.

After September 11, 2001, Czech authorities deployed troops and armored personnel carriers outside the RFE/RL building as a security precaution.

Because of the physical vulnerability of the building, Prime Minister Zeman had called on the United States to relocate RFE/RL headquarters from downtown Prague to a more secure location, The Associated Press reported.