Czech Police: 12 Illegal Weapons Found in Palestinian Embassy

Palestinians deny weapons were illegal; Prague police running genetic and ballistic tests.

A total of 12 illegal weapons were found at the Palestinian embassy complex where a possibly booby-trapped safe killed the ambassador, police said Sunday.

The deputy Palestinian foreign minister, however, denied the weapons were illegal.

Police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova declined to give more details, citing the investigation.

On Thursday, Zoulova told Reuters that weapons had been found at the embassy one day after the safe exploded there, killing ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56. Zoulova did not provide details on Thursday of the type or quantity of weapons found.

Reuters reported Sunday that Mlada Fronta Dnes' news website quoted national police chief Martin Cervicek as saying "we have to put the weapons through genetic and ballistic testing, until then we will not release this information."

Deputy Palestinian Foreign Minister Taysir Jaradat said Sunday he met with his Czech counterpart and was asked about the weapons.

"We told them that these guns have been in the embassy for a long time — going back to the former regime of Czechoslovakia — and these guns were either licensed in the embassy or were given as gifts to the ambassador," he told Voice of Palestine radio station Sunday. "They are not in use."

During the Cold War, the Palestine Liberation Organization had strong ties with the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries, including Czechoslovakia, Romania and east Germany.

The PLO maintained diplomatic missions across the eastern bloc, sent fighters for training courses in eastern Europe and also sent many students to local universities.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has a Ph.D. from a Soviet university.

It remains unclear caused the safe to explode, but the ambassador's death is being investigated as a case of negligence.

Residents in the Suchdol district, where the new embassy complex is based, have lodged security concerns over the incident.