Dubai now seeking 26 suspects in Hamas killing

UPDATE 2: Police identify 15 new suspects and found passports were issued illegally.
Dubai now seeking 26 suspects in Hamas killing
DUBAI KILLING: Officials have said at least 18 people may have been involved in the assassination.(supplied)
By Cynthia Johnston
Wed 24 Feb 2010 04:44 PM

Dubai is hunting for at least 26 people over the killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel in a suspected Israeli operation that has caused a diplomatic furore.

Hamas military commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are near certain was a hit by Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Dubai police on Wednesday added 15 new names to a list of suspects wanted over the killing. Six carried British passports, three held Irish documents, three were Australian, and three French, the Dubai government said in a statement.

Dubai authorities had earlier named 11 suspects, who they said travelled on fraudulent British, Irish, French and German passports to kill Mabhouh. Six were Britons living in Israel who deny involvement and say their identities were stolen.

The statement said: "Dubai investigators are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of other people in the murder."

The suspected killers' use of passports from countries including Britain and France has drawn criticism from the European Union that diplomats said was aimed at Israel.

Some of governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.

In a statement, the Dubai government said: "Friendly nations who have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner."

It said that pictures on the passports did not correspond to their original owners.

In a statement on Monday that European diplomats said was intended as a rebuke to Israel, EU foreign ministers said that the assassination was "profoundly disturbing".

Israel has not denied or confirmed it played any role but its foreign minister said there was nothing to link it to the killing. The United States, Israel's main ally, has kept silent about the affair.

Mabhouh, born in the Gaza Strip, had lived in Syria since 1989. Both a Hamas official and Israel have said he masterminded the capture and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.

Like last week, Dubai police released passport photos and closed circuit television footage of the new suspects, who police said arrived from cities including Zurich, Paris, Rome, Milan and Hong Kong.

The statement said: "This was to take the camouflage and deception to its utmost level and to guarantee the avoidance of any security supervision or observation of their movements."

Once their part in the operation was completed, the suspects again dispersed to different parts of the world, with two suspects leaving Dubai by boat for Iran, it said.

Dubai police also released credit card details of some of the suspects. At least 13 credit cards used to book hotel rooms and pay for air travel were issued by the same small US bank.

Two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support were in detention and Dubai's police chief has said he believes the operation could not have been carried out without information from inside Hamas on Mabhouh's travel details.

An official from the movement was quoted as saying last week that Hamas had launched an investigation to try to discover "how the Mossad was able to carry out the operation.

Mossad is believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia as well as Iran's nuclear project.

Mabhouh's killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in trade and tourism hub Dubai, one of seven emirates in the UAE federation, where violent crime is rare. (Reuters)

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