Palestinian embassy blast mystery

Mystery still surrounds the death of a Palestinian diplomat killed in Prague last week by an explosive device hidden in a safe.

Even if the explosion was an accident, as both the Czech police and the Palestinian Authority are claiming, it served as a reminder of the connections between Soviet Bloc powers and Palestinian terror back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was fatally wounded while opening an old safe at the Palestinian Embassy in Prague, which served also as his residence. He died a few hours later in hospital.

The embassy is in the process of relocating from its old premises and it is still unclear whether the safe was booby-trapped or old explosives stored in it accidently blew up.

In police investigations, 12 weapons and ammunition were also found and handed over to the police. However, Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Taysir Jaradat, who arrived in Prague to help the investigations, denied the weapons were illegal, saying that they had been licensed or given to the Palestinians as gifts.

Mr Al-Jamal was a veteran diplomat. He was a member of Fatah from 1975, representing the PLO, and later the Palestinian Authority, in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia from 1979 onwards. Between 2005 and 2013, he was Palestinian consul-general in Alexandria and three months ago returned to Prague to serve as Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic.

It is not clear whether he had terrorist connections but, during the Cold War, both Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia were suppliers of arms and explosives to Palestinian terror groups.

The weapons used today by the PA security forces are regulated and partly supplied by the US, in co-ordination with Israel. But during the Communist era, the embassy in Prague was a hub for arms smuggling from Eastern Europe to Palestinian organisations in the Middle East, as well as a source of munitions for their European terror operations.

Last updated: 8:45pm, January 9 2014