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Ambassador killed after safe explodes

The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in a blast that occurred when he opened an office safe that had been sealed for at least 30 years, officials said.

Ambassador Jamel 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 hadn't been opened in at least 30 years. It was recently moved from an old embassy building.

"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 hadn't been opened in at least 30 years or why the safe would have contained explosives.

It was also unclear where the safe had been three decades ago — during the Cold War, the Palestinian Liberation Organization maintained a presence in many eastern bloc countries.

Zoulova said police were searching the apartment but declined further comment.

Martin Cervicek, the country's top police officer, told the Czech public television that nothing was immediately found to suggest that the diplomat had been targeted.

Prague rescue service spokeswoman Jirina Ernestova said al-Jamal was placed in a medically induced coma when he first arrived at Prague Military Hospital. Dr. Daniel Langer, who works there, told public television that al-Jamal had suffered serious abdominal injuries.

Ernestova said a 52-year old woman was taken from the scene of the explosion to a different hospital in Prague after suffering from shock. She was not immediately identified.

The ambassador's apartment is in Prague's Suchdol neighbourhood. It's part of a new complex that includes a new Palestinian Embassy and the ambassador's residence, El-Fahel said.

He said the new embassy has not been opened yet and the ambassador spent only two nights in the new residence.

Al-Jamal had been ambassador since Oct. 11.

The Canadian Press

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