Police ruling out terrorism in Palestinian ambassador’s violent death in Prague

Jamal al-Jamal, photo: CTK

The death of the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic remains at the centre of media attention. While police investigating the explosion that killed Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal in his Prague residence say they have no reason to suspect foul play, an unnamed Palestinian official has indicated that the blast may not have been an accident.

Jamal al-Jamal,  photo: CTK
The Palestinian ambassador’s violent death in Prague has triggered enormous publicity and raised dozens of questions that the police are not yet prepared to answer. It is known that the ambassador suffered lethal injuries in an explosion that happened while he was opening a safe in his residence shortly before noon on Wednesday. What explosive triggered the blast and how it got into the safe remains unclear. However Police President Martin Červíček, who is heading the investigation, says that so far there is no evidence pointing to a terrorist attack.

The most likely scenario, according to a police spokeswoman, was that the ambassador may accidentally have set off a security mechanism that contains an explosive device fitted into the safe to destroy secret documents. This theory seemed to be supported by a statement on Wednesday from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry which said the ambassador had been killed while trying to unlock a safe that no one had opened for over twenty years. However the Palestinian embassy in Prague on Thursday denied the claim saying the safe which exploded had been used on a daily basis and contained among other documents, money for employees’ salaries.

The police have not yet specified what explosive killed the ambassador and there are many other questions being asked – such as what any kind of explosive was doing in an embassy safe and whether there could be more potentially dangerous materials on the embassy grounds. Security experts claim that while some safes do contain security mechanisms intended to destroy the contents of the safe they are not of the kind to trigger an explosion of such strength.

Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal residence in Prague,  photo: CTK
Meanwhile an unnamed Palestinian official told the news agency New China that the blast may not have been an accident but a terrorist attack. There has also been speculation that the explosive used may have been Semtex, a Czechoslovak-made plastic explosive used in the Pan Am flight bombing over Lockerbie. Explosives specialists in Prague are now analyzing samples of the substance. The analysis is to ascertain the nature of the explosive and ideally also trace its source. According to a police spokeswoman the results should be available within a matter of days.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry is sending a team of its own specialists to Prague to assist with the investigation. The measure of cooperation with the Czech police is unclear. In a addition to a team of criminal experts, the case is also being investigated by the country’s special organized-crime squad and the country’s leading anti-terrorism experts.