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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 23:19 GMT
Prague takes charge of Semtex
A block of Semtex
Only 250g is thought to be enough to destroy a plane
The Czech state is to take over the company which manufactures the plastic explosive Semtex in the hope of reducing the risk of it being used for terrorist attacks.

If Explosia remained in private hands, it would pose a high security risk

Anna Starkova
Department of Trade and Industry
The government is to purchase Explosia, based in eastern Bohemia, from parent company Synthesia, for a symbolic price and an obligation to pay off the company's multi-million-dollar debt.

The Department of Trade and Industry said the purchase was recommended by the country's security council following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September of last year.

Semtex is a highly explosive material which became popular with guerrilla groups because it was reliable and difficult to detect.

It is believed to have been used in the 1988 bombing of the PanAm flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.

Safer state

To prevent unauthorised use of the explosive, Explosia developed a new version of Semtex that loses its plasticity after three years. The previous version had retained it for 20 years.

Semtex is also now marked with metal traces so it can be detected.

Wreckage of the PanAm aircraft after it exploded
270 people died on board the PanAm flight
A ministry spokeswoman said the government nonetheless believed it would be safer in state hands.

"The international campaign against terrorism is underway and a number of security measures have been adopted that are expected to prevent further terrorist attacks in the world," said Anna Starkova.

"If Explosia remained in private hands, it would pose a high security risk because there would be no control over the dissemination of sensitive information about Explosia's research, products, production processes and trade," she said.

The company is also the main supplier of the Czech army, giving the acquisition strategic significance.

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