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Czech Police Arrest Five

August 3, 2002

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Czech police have arrested five people who were allegedly trying to sell 106 pounds of the explosive Semtex, according to a spokeswoman.

Police arrested the five in a parking lot by a shopping center on the outskirts of Prague, police spokeswoman Blanka Kosinova said Friday. She declined to provide details, saying an investigation was under way.

Semtex, a Czech-made explosive, has been used by terrorists in several cases. The explosive became infamous in 1988, when it was used by Libyan terrorists to down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

The suspects arrested Thursday would face up to five years in prison if convicted of illegal possession of the explosive, Kosinova said.

Explosia, the firm that makes Semtex, has since tried to prevent unauthorized use by developing a new version of the explosive that becomes ineffective three years after it was produced. Previously, Semtex could be used up to 20 years after it was produced.

The Czech government in January decided to buy Explosia to minimize the risks of misuse of Semtex. The deal is expected to be completed late this year or early next year.

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