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Published: Monday January 6, 2014 MYT 3:25:01 AM
Updated: Monday January 6, 2014 MYT 3:25:52 AM

Czech police find 12 weapons at Palestinian mission - report

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech police found 12 weapons, including pistols and sub-machine guns, at the Palestinian mission in Prague after an explosion killed the ambassador at his residence last week, the police chief was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Police said the explosion that killed ambassador Jamal al-Jamal after he opened a safe might have been caused by mishandling a device meant to secure it.

After the incident, investigators found unlicensed weapons at the complex of the Palestinian mission that includes the embassy and residence. But the police had not immediately detailed the amount or type of weapons.

Daily newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes' website idnes.cz reported that 12 weapons were discovered, confirming the number with national police chief Martin Cervicek, who declined to say how many pistols or sub-machine guns were found.

"We have to put the weapons through genetic and ballistic testing, until then we will not release this information," idnes.cz quoted Cervicek as saying.

A police spokeswoman was not available to comment.

On Thursday, a Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the mission's staff had submitted the arms to the Czech authorities. He said the weapons had been retrieved from an old sack and had been untouched since Cold War times.

The deputy Palestinian foreign minister, Tayseer Jaradat, in Prague with a team to help the investigation, told Reuters by telephone he had confirmed to the Czech authorities that the weapons were from a previous era and were being stored.

"We have stressed our commitment to the laws of diplomacy," he said.

Jaradat told Voice of Palestine radio the weapons stash dated back more than 30 years. He said some of the guns had been gifts to the embassy and some had been registered with the authorities.

MYSTERY

Czech police were not investigating the safe explosion as an attack, although the ambassador's daughter has alleged he was "deliberately killed".

"This case needs more time and more criminal investigation to uncover the mystery of the case," Jaradat said on the radio.

Adding to the uncertainty, an embassy spokesman has said mission staff were not aware of any explosives in the safe, which he said was used on a regular basis.

The Palestinian mission was in the process of moving into new premises in a Prague suburb when the blast killed the ambassador at his residence on New Year's Day.

It was not yet the official site of the mission and so did not enjoy the diplomatic immunity that normally prevents host country officials from entering diplomatic missions without permission.

The discovery of the unlicensed weapons prompted the Czech Foreign Ministry to say it would demand an explanation.

Jamal suffered lethal injuries to his head, chest and abdomen. He had been in Prague only since October but had previously served at the mission for two decades from the mid-1980s, his daughter said.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Jan Lopatka and Rosalind Russell)

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