Slovak truck drivers reported missing
As many as 10 Slovak truck drivers have been reported missing during the past year, wrote the Kronen Zeitung daily newspaper in Vienna on November 4. Two of the drivers disappeared in Austria, and although neither of their trucks has been found, the murdered body of one of the drivers, Miroslav Urbanec, has been recovered.
The Austrian daily reported that the drivers were likely abducted by a Slovak gang which is stealing the trucks and the goods they carry. Austrian police have yet to find any solid leads on the cases.
Michal Sika, director of the Slovak Interior Ministry's public security deparment, confirmed that the two Slovak drivers had disappeared in Austria. "Miroslav Urbanec was found shot dead at the end of 1998, and [another Slovak truck driver] Jozef Nagy is still missing."
Austrian police officials, meanwhile, say that they know nothing about the high number of missing drivers reported by Kronen Zeitung. "We know nothing about these Slovak drivers," said an Austrian police spokesman. "We only know about Jozef Nagy and his Iveco cargo truck."
The spokesman said that the police did not consider Nagy's case to be related to Urbanec's murder. "The [Urbanec] case is still unresolved. I don't even know if the driver was killed in Hungary or Slovakia and then transported to Austria," he said.
Nagy has been missing since November 17, 1998 when he crossed the Petržalka - Berg border crossing. The next day, a friend reported seeing Nagy's truck cross the Spielfeld border crossing near Slovenia.
An Austrian Interior Ministry criminal team has been co-operating with Interpol during the investigation of the case, said the Graz police force.
Former Lexa bodyguard caught drug-smuggling
Boris U., the former bodyguard of ex-Slovak secret service boss Ivan Lexa, was one of five Slovaks caught on November 6 and 7 attempting to smuggle cocaine into Slovakia. The drug haul had an estimated street value of 120 million Slovak crowns ($2.9 million).
Two of the men - Emilián K. of Bratislava and Jaroslav B. of Nitra - were caught at Prague's Ruzyn Airport on November 6 carrying 1.8 and 1.4 kilograms of cocaine respectively. The other members of the apparently related gang - Pavol M. and Jan G. of Bratislava and Boris U. of Senec - were detained on Saturday.
The arrests were the fruit of a joint effort between the Czech and Slovak police anti-drug units. The 90%-pure cocaine was reported to have been bought in Venezuela.
Chemical leak drill deemed a success
The Slovak Interior Ministry held an International Civilian Protection Drill on November 7 in Bratislava to test the efficiency of emergency response units to a chemical plant leak, reported the ministry's Ján Michalko. Over 1,000 members of emergency groups from Austria, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia participated in the drill, which was deemed a success by international observers.
Communication among the units, which was in German and English, reportedly went off without a hitch. The drill was observed by a group of international safety experts and sponsored by the UN Office for Humanitarian Aid and the NATO Committee for Emergency Planning.
Former SDK MP faces two-year jail term
Peter Ďuračka, a former member of parliament for the ruling SDK party, faces a possible two years in prison after violating his probation by verbally abusing police officers who were trying to issue him a traffic ticket.
The officers had attempted to issue Ďuračka a parking ticket on November 4, but the former MP cursed at them and accused them of victimizing him. Ďuračka was taken into custody by an order from the Bratislava I District Court on November 6.
On October 6 this year, Ďuračka was handed a two-year suspended sentence for physically and verbally attacking police in Bratislava in the early spring.
"Ďuračka will be sentenced to more than two years in prison," said Bratislava District I Prosecutor Michal Barila. The pre-trial hearing will take place in the next few weeks, with a trial to occur early next year.
Three climbers die in four day span
Three climbers fell separately to their deaths in icy conditions while trying to scale mountains in the High Tatra chain between November 4 and 7. A total of nine climbers have died in the High Tatras this year, said Jozef Koršeľa, chief of the Tatra Mountain Service rescue team on November 7.
The first death occurred on November 4 when 28-year-old Czech climber David C. fell 300 metres to his death in the Malá Studená Dolina (Small Cold Valley). David C. had been climbing with two friends when a falling rock struck him on the head, causing him to lose his balance on the icy trail.
The second deadly incident took the lives of two climbers on November 7. Seven mountaineers from the IAMES Filozof Club in Bratislava set out at 7:30 to climb Slovakia's highest peak - Gerlachovský Štít - at 2,663 metres above sea level.
At approximately 10:00, the climbers reached Sedlo Nad Kotlom (Above Hell Pass), then proceeded to make their way along a steep adjoining ridge. A "flash fog" descended upon the group and forced them to retreat, said Koršeľa.
While descending, one of the climbers slipped and fell some 60 metres. The others tried to rescue the victim, but during the attempt another climber fell over 500 metres into the valley below.
All the bodies were rescued by helicopter, Koršeľa said, and transported to the town of Starý Smokovec.
Compiled by Chris Togneri