A large, illegal weapons stockpile was found Thursday at the home of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague, Jamel al-Jamal, Czech media reported, a day after al-Jamal was killed in an explosion there.
Respekt, a Czech weekly newspaper, reported that the arsenal was enough to arm a unit of ten men.
Czech police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova confirmed that arms had been found in the ambassador’s residence, which is located within a newly constructed Palestinian diplomatic mission in the city.
Channel 2 News reported that the stockpile included heavy firearms, that it was held illegally, and that its existence had not been previously known to the Czech authorities.
Reuters quoted an unnamed Palestinian official claiming that the mission’s staff had submitted the weapons to Czech authorities. He said they had been retrieved from an old sack, untouched since the era of the Cold War. But Prague police chief Martin Vondrasek told local radio that the weapons “have not gone through a registration process in the Czech Republic.”
Al-Jamal, 56, was killed Wednesday when a safe at his home exploded. He and his wife were at home at the time of the safe’s explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short while later.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, and claimed that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.
Later, however, El-Fahel told Czech radio that the safe had been in regular use. ”[The safe] was used on a daily basis at the embassy and it was opened and closed almost every day,” the embassy spokesman said.
The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, Malki had claimed, adding that it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in the 1980s. “The ambassador decided to open it. After he opened it, apparently something happened inside (the safe) and went off,” Malki said.
Al-Jamal was born in 1957, in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp. His family is originally from Jaffa in what is now Israel.
He joined Fatah in 1975. In 1979, he was appointed deputy ambassador in Bulgaria.
Starting in 1984, he served as a diplomat in Prague, eventually as acting ambassador. From 2005-2013, he served as consul general in Alexandria, Egypt.
In October 2013, he was appointed ambassador in Prague.
The Associated Press contributed to this report