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25 Aug, 2016 19:09

Armed man arrested after attempting to infiltrate Merkel motorcade in Prague

Czech police had to use the threat of gunfire to halt a man in a black 4x4 Mercedes who was attempting to join German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s motorcade during her visit to the Czech capital.

“The perpetrator has been detained,” police spokesman Josef Bocan said. “He is suspected of attempting to cause a crime – specifically an attempt to use violence against an official.”

“Thanks to the professional actions of officers, Angela Merkel’s life was not in danger. The incident is currently being investigated by Prague detectives.”

Merkel was in Prague on Thursday for a one-day visit, during which she met with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

She was making her way from the airport, when the suspicious vehicle appeared on the outskirts of the city.

“The driver of the Mercedes refused to obey orders coming from police cars accompanying the German chancellor. He tried to join the procession at all costs, cutting off a police vehicle that was trying to stop him. He only stopped and got out of the vehicle after police warned him that they were going to shoot.”

According to local news portal Blesk, officers found a baton, a canister of tear gas, cement blocks, and handcuffs in the man’s car. A video posted on its website shows several police officers talking calmly on the roadside to an unprepossessing middle-aged man, who is not displaying any signs of resistance.

A hostile welcome for Merkel 

Angela Merkel’s visit took place against a backdrop of discontent with the EU, with no fewer than six public protests scheduled in Prague, though there were also three smaller pro-EU rallies.

While the government is committed to accepting over 2,700 refugees from elsewhere in Europe, in accordance with Germany’s controversial rehousing scheme, the country is fiercely opposed to a permanent obligation to accept a ratio of newcomers into Europe, particularly from Islamic countries.

Demonstrators lined up along the route of her limo held up posters saying “Away with Merkel, Away with Islam,”, “Prague belongs to Czechs,” and “Merkel is killing Europe.”

A June survey by polling firm STEM showed that only 18 percent of Czech citizens have a positive view of the long-time German leader, putting her well behind even divisive figures such as Vladimir Putin and Jean-Claude Juncker.

Populist Czech President Milos Zeman has also branded Germany’s migration policies “nonsense” and “misguided humanism.” Germany itself has received over 1 million refugees since 2015.

But the moderate center-left Sobotka and Merkel both repeated that the two countries “must keep talking” to hammer out a solution to the ongoing crisis.

Sobotka was more enthused over closer EU military cooperation, saying that the Czech Republic would get behind a plan to create a continent-wide army.

Merkel is meeting with 15 EU leaders throughout the week ahead of a leaders’ summit, scheduled for Bratislava, in Slovakia, next month.