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January 2, 2014

Ambassador killed in blast

PRAGUE — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in an explosion that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said.

Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.

It also appeared that the door of the safe had been booby-trapped, according to Zoulova. It was unclear how al-Jamal tried to open it or what type of safe it was.

The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in the 1980s, Malki said.

“The ambassador decided to open it. After he opened it, apparently something happened inside (the safe) and went off,” Malki told The Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear how Malki knew the safe had been untouched for more than 20 years or why and when the safe would have been booby-trapped.

During the 1980s — before the fall of the Soviet Union — the PLO had close ties with the Eastern bloc countries. In recent years, relations have been tense and the Czech government was seen as largely taking Israel’s side in the Mideast conflict, said Nabil Shaath, a foreign affairs veteran and leading official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.

“The safe was sitting neglected in one of the areas of the old embassy. It was in one of the corners. No one had touched it for 20 to 25 years,” Malki said.

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