Blast killing Palestinian envoy 'not an accident'

A blast that killed the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic this week "was not an accident," despite an official theory to the contrary, the envoy's daughter said Saturday.

"What is certain is that it was not an accident," Rana al-Jamal, who lives in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, told the Czech newspaper Dnes in an interview.

Her father, Jamal al-Jamal, the 56-year-old ambassador to Prague since October, was fatally wounded on Wednesday by an explosion in the Palestinian diplomatic mission's premises in the Czech capital.

Czech police have excluded an assassination, instead advancing the theory that the blast was caused by an anti-theft device inside a safe Jamal was manipulating. They also said unregistered weapons were found inside the mission in violation of diplomatic treaties.

Palestinian officials have given contradictory accounts of the explosion.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki has described the death as an "accident" caused by an old safe booby-trapped to explode if opened the wrong way. But a spokesman for the Palestinian embassy said the safe in question was new, often used, and contained "no built-in anti-theft system".

The ambassador's daughter said she was convinced the explosives were put inside the safe when the diplomatic mission was recently moved from a different address in the Czech capital.

"A political or other motive" could be behind her father's death, she said, without elaborating.

"I don't know and I won't mention anyone."

She added: "I hope all of this will be cleared up as soon as possible and that we will know the truth."

A security specialist, Jiri Sedivy, who was chief of staff of the Czech military from 1988 to 2002, challenged Rana al-Jamal's evaluation.

"In contrast with the ambassador's daughter, I don't think it was an attack against her father. In my opinion, he died because he ineptly handled an explosive," Sedivy said on the news website

He claimed a weapons cache "has pratically become common in the Palestinian embassy" and hypothesised that the diplomat did not observe basic safety procedures in handling them.

The former officer said he believed an accidental explosion had inadvertently revealed a "well-organised arms and explosive distribution network... under diplomatic cover".

The Czech police are pursuing their investigation into the blast with Palestinian officials sent to Prague.

The website of mass circulation Respekt weekly on Thursday quoted unnamed police sources as saying Jamal had probably mishandled a bomb hidden in the safe.

It also said police had found enough automatic rifles and other illegal weapons to arm a 10-man combat unit.

The ambassador's body could be sent to the Palestinian territory next week, according to Czech media.

Jamal was a member of the ruling Palestinian Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas since 1975.

The Czech Republic is a staunch ally of Israel but Prague has hosted a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission since 1981, when it was the capital of Czechoslovakia.