Palestinian envoy dies after
“accidental” Prague blast

Czech police. (AFP/Michal Cizek)

PRAGUE - The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died on Wednesday after a blast at his Prague residence that police said was an accident rather than a terror attack.


The blast was likely caused by an anti-theft system on the door of a safe that Jamal al-Jamal was opening at the time, Prague police said.


The 56-year-old suffered "very serious injuries" in the blast and was taken to Prague's military hospital in an artificial coma, said Jirina Ernestova,

spokesperson for the emergency services.


Police later confirmed that he had died.


"The evidence the police has doesn't suggest anything like a terror attack or that a specific person would set up a system with the intention to hurt or kill anyone," police spokesperson Andrea Zoulova told AFP.


Daniel Langer, surgeon at the Prague military hospital to which Jamal was taken, told Czech television the ambassador had suffered devastating "head, belly and chest injuries following an explosion."


Jamal, who took office in October, had only recently moved to the new residence on the northern outskirts of Prague.


The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the blast occurred on Wednesday morning as Jamal "was opening an old safe which had been brought from the previous embassy [building] to the new one."


"Minutes after opening the safe the explosion took place, causing serious injury to Ambassador Jamal who was taken to hospital and operated on," the ministry said in a statement.


Zoulova said police were searching a building next door which also belongs to the Palestinian embassy.


But she said she was unable to confirm a report on the Novinky.cz news site that police had found "a significant quantity of weapons and explosives" in the building.


"We cannot rule out mishandling the device. The victim has died so it will be harder to prove the cause," she said.


Police advised people living in the area to leave their homes while the investigation is under way, but said there was no danger of another explosion.


The ambassador's 52-year-old wife "was taken to another hospital because of smoke inhalation and a stress reaction," Ernestova told AFP. The wife was released from hospital later on Wednesday.


Embassy spokesman Nabil al-Fahel told Czech radio that the ambassador's entire family had been in the residence when the blast occurred.


The Palestinian foreign ministry said it would send a high-level delegation to Prague on Thursday to cooperate in the investigation into the cause of the explosion.


The Czech Republic is a staunch ally of Israel, and when Jamal arrived in Prague he had to ask the outspoken Czech President Milos Zeman to correct his suggestion that the Czech embassy in Israel should move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.


Such a move suggesting Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel is unthinkable for most Palestinians who claim rights to the eastern part of the city.


Zeman, the first-ever directly elected Czech president in office since last March, was criticized by the Arab League for the statement.

Czech police outside of Palestinian envoy Jamal al-Jamal's residence. (AFP/Michal Cizek)

I can only confirm there was a detonation in the residence of a Palestinian diplomat.