Palestinian ambassador in Prague dies from injuries after blast

PA envoy Jamal al-Jamal succumbs to injuries from explosion at his house in Czech capital; blast deemed accident, not attack.

Firefighters search area after explosion. (photo credit: Reuters)
Firefighters search area after explosion.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Prague was killed on Wednesday at his residence, in a blast that Czech police and PA sources said appeared to have been an accident.
According to the police and the PA Foreign Ministry, an explosive device detonated when ambassador Jamal al-Jamal opened a safe.
“There is nothing suggesting that a terrorist act was committed,” police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova told reporters after the diplomat died in the hospital on New Year’s Day.
The explosive device may have been part of a security mechanism, she said.
The Palestinian Authority announced that it would send a security team to Prague to investigate Jamal’s death.
Jamal, 56, had taken up his post only in October. He previously served as consul-general in Alexandria, Egypt.
The PA Foreign Ministry said that he had suffered serious injuries after trying to open an old safe that had recently been moved to his new home.
“The explosion occurred minutes after the ambassador opened the safe box,” the ministry said.
According to Zoulova, “the possibilities include inexpert handling of an explosive device or its spontaneous detonation. The device was in a safe and was triggered after the door of the safe was opened. The police are not ruling out that the device was a part of the safe.”
Some safes can be fitted with small charges to destroy secret documents in the event of the lock undergoing tampering. However, the Czech police left open the possibility that another kind of explosive device had been involved.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki ruled out the possibility that the ambassador had been killed as a result of a terrorist attack.
Malki said that the explosion had not taken place immediately after the ambassador opened the safe box.
“After he opened the safe, he asked his wife to bring him a paper and pen,” Malki said. “When the wife left the room, Jamal put his hand inside the safe and probably touched a device that set off the explosion.”
Malki said the safe had previously been in the old Palestinian embassy building in Prague. When the embassy moved to a new location, the safe was taken along with everything else that was inside.
According to the foreign minister, the safe was very old and neglected, and none of the previous ambassadors or diplomats had tried to open it.
A spokesman for the embassy, Nabil el-Fahel, said he had no details on what it was that had blown up.
“We need to wait for the results of the police investigation,” he said.
Jamal suffered lethal injuries to his head, chest and abdomen, surgeon Daniel Langer told Czech television.
No one else was hurt in the explosion, police said, although a spokeswoman for Prague’s emergency medical services said a 52-year-old woman had been treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
Jamal’s family was at home at the time of the blast.
No signs of damage to the two-story house were visible from the outside, but police cordoned off part of the street.
Malki offered his condolences to the ambassador’s family, saying he was a “model for a successful and hard-working diplomat who served his homeland and cause.”
The WAFA news agency quoted Malki as saying that Jamal had been “martyred in the line of duty.”
Jamal was born in Beirut in 1957 to a Palestinian family that was originally from Jaffa. He joined Fatah in 1975. Four years later, he was appointed assistant ambassador to Bulgaria. In 1984, he served as a diplomat in the Palestinian embassy in Prague. Two months ago, he presented his credentials to the Czech president as ambassador.•