THE Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic was killed in an explosion at his Prague residence on Wednesday after a safe blew up as he was trying to open it.
Jamal al-Jamal (56) suffered severe head, chest and stomach wounds in the incident. He was taken to Prague Military Hospital but later died from his injuries. An unidentified 52-year-old woman was also treated in hospital for shock and smoke inhalation.
There was no definitive explanation for the cause of the blast but early indications suggested it may have been an accident. Czech police said there was no evidence that the ambassador had been the victim of terrorism while Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, insisted no foul play was involved. He said the safe had not been opened in at least 30 years when Mr al-Jamal -- who had been in his post for less than three months -- tried to open it.
"The ambassador decided to open it. After he opened it, apparently something happened inside (the safe) and went off," Mr Malki said.
It is believed Mr al-Jamal had been taking the safe from the embassy's old building to its new complex in the Suchdol neighbourhood in northern Prague.
Andrea Zoulova, a Czech police spokeswoman, said an anti-theft device on the safe door may have triggered the explosion.
"We cannot rule out mishandling the device. The victim has died so it will be harder to prove the cause," she said. "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," she added.
Novinky.cz, a Czech news website, quoting sources closes to the police investigation, said police had found "a significant quantity of weapons and explosives" in the building next door to the ambassador's residence, which also belongs to the Palestinian embassy.
The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry said it was sending a delegation to Prague to assist the police inquiry.
Maan, a Palestinian news site, quoted close associates of Mr al-Jamal as blaming Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, for his death. They said he had given a lecture in Prague last month attacking Israel's "racist" policies. (© Daily Telegraph, London)