Czech police probing fatal explosion find arms at Palestinian Embassy

Items are removed from the Prague residence of Jamal Jamal, the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic, who was killed Wednesday when an explosive substance detonated in an embassy safe he had just opened.
(Filip Singer / European Pressphoto Agency)

Czech police investigating the fatal New Year’s Day explosion at the Palestinian Authority Embassy in Prague found unregistered weapons at the mission, government officials reported Thursday.

The discovery of an undisclosed number and type of arms has intensified concern in suburban Suchdol, officials said, after the explosion Wednesday that killed the newly appointed Palestinian ambassador, Jamal Jamal, when he opened a safe in the diplomatic compound.

The explosion probably was caused by an anti-theft device, National Police chief Martin Cervicek told Czech Television on Thursday.

“According to information from the investigation so far, this was definitely not a terrorist attack,” Cervicek said.


But conflicting accounts by Palestinian officials about the safe’s use at the Prague mission and the discovery by Prague police of weapons that hadn’t been declared to Czech authorities, as required by law, have stirred discomfort among residents, Suchdol Mayor Petr Hejl told the Associated Press on Thursday.

“We have lost trust in the diplomats. We feel deceived by them,” Hejl said, adding that he, like national officials, would seek an explanation from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki in Ramallah said the safe opened by Jamal hadn’t been used since the 1980s. However, embassy spokesman Nabil Fahel said the safe, which had just been moved from the embassy’s former location, was being used on a daily basis to secure cash for salaries and expenses, Euronews reported.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was “concerned” that unregistered weapons were found at the mission during the initial investigation of the blast. The ministry noted that diplomats are required to comply with local laws mandating that all arms be declared, licensed and registered.

An unnamed Palestinian official quoted by the Reuters news agency said the weapons discovered by police had been surrendered to Czech authorities. He gave few details, Reuters said, except that the arms had been retrieved from an old sack that had been stored at the embassy since the Cold War era.

The news agency also quoted Jamal’s 30-year-old daughter, Rana, as claiming in a phone call from Ramallah that the envoy, who had spent most of his career in Prague, had been “deliberately killed.”

“We believe my father was killed and that his death was something arranged and not an accident,” Reuters quoted her as saying. “How? We do not know and that is what we want to know.”

Jamal, 56, had just arrived to take up the role of chief of mission in October, but he had been a university student in the Czech capital and his first diplomatic posting was there in 1984, according to Palestinian media reports.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization had close ties with Czechoslovakia and other Soviet-allied states during the Cold War. In recent years, though, the Czech Republic, which split from Slovakia in 1993, has been more closely aligned with Israel. It was one of only eight countries that joined the United States to vote against a United Nations General Assembly resolution in November 2012 that granted the Palestinian Authority’s request for nonmember observer status at the world body.

Twitter: @cjwilliamslat