The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Prague who died in a blast at his residence on New Year’s Day fell victim to two old booby-trapped books that had been planted in the building, a Czech daily claimed Tuesday.
Citing the report by the Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper, Reuters said ambassador Jamel al-Jamal was trying to put his residence in order when he unwittingly opened books booby-trapped with old Semtex plastic explosives.
According to the report, the explosives had been concealed between the pages years, probably even decades, earlier.
“It was an unfortunate accident. The ambassador was a thorough man who wanted to put some old things in order, and among them there were two books with explosives,” the paper quoted a police source as saying.
“We are awaiting another expert opinion, but it was Semtex with 99.9 percent probability. The explosive was roughly from the 1970s. It was at least 30 years old,” the police investigator said.
Al-Jamal, 56, died in a hospital on January 1, only three months after taking up his post, following the explosion that was said to have occurred soon after he opened a safe.
Last month, Czech police investigators determined that al-Jamal was killed while holding explosives in his hand.
“An experimental blast carried out by experts confirms this theory,” Prague police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said, denying earlier reports that the safe was booby-trapped.
“The explosive was not placed on the door or inside the safe and was not there to protect the safe,” Zoulova said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.
Zoulova told The Association Press at the time that “mishandling remains the most likely option.”
“There’s a question whether he knew what he was dealing with,” she added.
In January, soon after the incident occurred, the Palestinian Authority ruled out a political assassination.
After al-Jamal’s death, Czech police found 12 firearms at the Palestinian embassy in Prague, including submachine guns and sidearms that were not officially registered in the Czech Republic.
Local media said the weapons were produced in the former Czechoslovakia and supplied to the Palestine Liberation Organisation before communism fell in Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Palestinian diplomats later apologized for hiding the illegal weapons at the embassy.
AFP and The Associated Press contributed to this report.