Friday, January 19, 2018

Palestinian ambassador in Prague killed in blast

BERLIN — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday after suffering severe injuries caused by an explosive booby-trap security system in a safe at his Prague residence that he apparently had trigged by mistake, the police reported.

They said there was no indication the explosion was sabotage or a terrorist attack.

The diplomat, Jamal al-Jamal, 56, had been in the Czech capital only since Oct. 11. He and his family were just moving into the residence, and the explosion occurred while he was opening the safe, inadvertently setting off the security protection, according to a police spokeswoman, Andrea Zoulova.

Daniel Langer, the lead surgeon at the Central Military Hospital in Prague, said the ambassador had suffered head, chest and stomach injuries.

An unidentified 52-year-old woman was taken to the hospital from the residence after apparently inhaling fumes from the explosion, but she was released soon afterward, said Jirina Ernestova, an official in Prague's emergency services.

Zoulova said a police investigation at the residence indicated that the safe itself had exploded because of careless handling that detonated the security system.

The president of the Czech police, Martin Cervicek, was quoted by Czech television as saying, "We do not have a single indication that this could be a terrorist attack."

The Palestine Liberation Organization, the main umbrella organization of the Palestinian national movement, maintains missions in a number of European capitals as part of a broader diplomatic effort aimed at advancing the cause of Palestinian statehood. Difficult negotiations have been underway for months between the Palestinian leadership and Israeli officials over a two-state solution to their prolonged conflict.

After the U.N. General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians' status to nonmember observer state in November 2012, the Czech Republic was one of many nations that also upgraded its diplomatic mission to be known as the Embassy of the State of Palestine. The Palestinian ambassador's residence in Prague is different from the mission itself, which is in a neighboring villa.

The villa where the explosion took place suffered no damage visible from the outside, according to the website of the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Jamal was critically injured by the blast that occurred minutes after he had opened a safe that had been transferred to the new residence from the mission's old headquarters.

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