An Iraqi intelligence agent who is believed to have had two meetings with Mohamed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the World Trade Centre attack, was expelled from the Czech Republic earlier this year, it emerged.
Foreign ministry official Hynek Kmonicek informed the Iraqi chargé d'affaires in Prague last April that his number two, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, would have to leave the country within 48 hours. "His presence was not in the security interests of the Czech Republic. He was not behaving like a diplomat," Mr Kmonicek said yesterday.
However, Mr Kmonicek, who is now his country's UN ambassador, added that reports the Iraqi agent had met Atta in Prague would remain "media speculation" until Czech police publish the results of their own investigation.
"Atta went to Czechoslovakia twice. Once was in transit, the second time he entered the country and remained there for 24 hours. Of course, if they did meet it would be suspicious," the ambassador said.
According to US officials, Atta met Mr al-Ani in June 2000 and April 2001, but they have cautioned that the meeting was not evidence Iraq was connected to the 11 September attacks. Czech police are now investigating whether he may have taken more trips to Prague, possibly using a false name and passport.
The Iraqi was expelled after he was seen photographing the Radio Free Europe building in Prague, which had broadcast programmes critical of Saddam Hussein.
The Czech counterintelligence agency said in a report yesterday that terrorists could have established a covert infrastructure in the country thanks to Prague's former ties to Iraq and Afghanistan under communism.Reuse content