20th Feb 2020

Dubai killers used fake EU passports

The hit squad behind the assassination of a senior Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel three weeks ago was carrying passports from the UK, Ireland, France and Germany, the Dubai police authorities have revealed.

The EU member states involved have denied that their own nationals participated in the killing and say the passports are fake.

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  • British passport: The UK Foreign Office says the passports were fraudulent (Photo: EUobserver)

Mohammed al-Mabhouh, who was attached to the al-Qassam Brigades, the group's military wing, and, according to Israeli sources, was the lead gun-runner from Iran to Gaza, died in mysterious circumstances at a Dubai hotel on 20 January.

Hamas immediately accused the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence service, and a week later, the Dubai police also suggested the spy agency was responsible.

Israeli officials speaking to EUobserver neither confirmed nor denied their country's responsibility for the killing. But two government ministers hinted that this was indeed the case.

In the meantime, suspicion has also fallen on rival Palestinian groups. The Dubai police have taken two Palestinians into custody for alleged involvement in the case. Hamas says that the two are members of Fatah, the secular group that controls the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank.

The police at the time also said that Mr al-Mabhouh had been killed by seven individuals travelling on European passports, but until now, the Dubai authorities had not publicly revealed which EU member states passports were used.

The authorities now say 10 men and one woman were involved: six carrying British passports, three carrying Irish passports, one a French passport and one a German passport.

According to the UK Foreign Office, the passports were fake but made out in the names of real people.

"We are aware that the holders of six British passports have been named in this case. We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation," said UK spokeswoman Lucy Torrington.

"We have informed the authorities in the UAE that this is the case, and continue to co-operate closely with the mirates on this matter."

One man who was named by the Dubai police, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, a Briton who currently lives in Jerusalem, says the picture shown is not of him and that he had nothing to do with the assassination.

According to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the people named do not exist and the numbers on the passports in the photographs released by the Dubai authorities do not correspond to numbers used by Irish passports.

"We have been unable to find any record of Irish passports having been issued with details corresponding to the details published today in a number of UAE newspapers," the department said in a statement.

"We have received no evidence that any Irish nationals were involved."

French Foreign Ministry officials told this website that the passports were fraudulent.

In 1997, Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, was the subject of a 'targeted assassination' attempt in Jordan involving a lethal nerve toxin carried out by two Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports entered Jordan, and in 2004, New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel after two Israeli citizens were convicted of passport fraud in Auckland. The New Zealand government at the time said there was strong evidence that the two people were Mossad agents.

Hamas has demanded the European Union work to prevent Israeli security services from using EU passports to carry out targeted assassinations.

The European Commission said that the European institutions themselves have no responsibility over national passports, however. Passports of EU member states are issued by national authorities and only share common design features, including the burgundy cover.

"European competence is limited to ensuring that features of the common visa policy, notably biometrics, meet agreed standards," commission home affairs spokesman Michele Cercone told EUobserver. "There is nothing the EU itself can do - combatting passport falsification is the responsibility of member states."

Complicating further investigations, the names as reported were translated from the Roman alphabet into Arabic script and back again for the press release, European member state authorities complain, some of whom are having trouble contacting their UAE counterparts.

Europol warns that despite the biometric changes to passports, counterfeiting remains a major problem for criminals or others "who are determined to do so," with the provision of documents for irregular immigrants being the main driver of the activity.

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