PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) – A bomb targeting a casino owner exploded under a car on a busy restaurant street in the Czech capital Sunday, injuring at least 18 people, including foreign tourists, in what authorities described as a probable gangland attack.

Two Americans, as well as tourists from Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Slovakia, were among those hurt in the blast, which Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross described in a radio interview as “a case of gangs settling accounts.”

Among those hurt was a child, but all of the injuries appeared to be slight, said Marek Uhlir, spokesman for Prague’s emergency service, without giving further details.

The bomb went off just after noon outside the Casino Royal in a popular pedestrian zone in downtown Prague with many restaurants and cafes, about 100 yards from Prague’s central Wenceslas Square.

A man threw the explosive device under a car outside a casino shortly after several people got in, police spokeswoman Iva Knolova told The Associated Press.

The incident was being investigated as an attempted murder, and authorities have “ruled out” terrorism, she said.

The Israeli owner of the casino, Assi Abutbul, had just gotten into his car when the blast went off but was unhurt because the vehicle was armored, his lawyer Tsion Amir told Israel radio.

Abutbul was “surprised,” Amir said. “There was a loud noise and a great commotion.” Abutbul said his attackers did not wear masks and appeared to be Thai, Amir said.

Three or four men ran from the scene, said a security guard from a nearby store, Andrej Cebotarev.

“I saw a white cloud and later a woman bleeding from her belly and a man lying injured on the street,” he said.

Police at the scene said the casino owner appeared to have been the target. Police seized video cassettes from a camera monitoring the street outside the shop.

Israel’s national police chief, Moshe Karady, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday that there was a connection between the attack and crime groups of interest to the Israeli police.

“Our intelligence people will collaborate with the appropriate people in the Czech police in order to get to the bottom of the incident and the connection to Israeli criminals,” Karady said.

The Foreign Office in London said five British nationals were hurt in the explosion. The U.S. Embassy confirmed two U.S. citizens, a couple, were injured in the explosion, spokeswoman Lisa Helling said. She had no details about them. Three Irish citizens were also hurt, their country’s government said.

AP-ES-08-01-04 1302EDT



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