Friday

4th Dec 2020

Hit squad passports not fake, say UAE police, as enquiry widens

  • Qassam rockets: The Hamas commander was believed to have been a gun-runner for the militant group (Photo: davidkormanphoto)

The European passports used by the killers of a Hamas chief were not fake, the Dubai police chief has insisted.

In the wake of the revelation that 11 passports from the UK, Ireland, France and Germany were used by the members of the hit squad that assassinated the Hamas commander, Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, on 20 January, London, Dublin and Paris declared the passports to have been fakes.

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Today, the Dubai Police commander-in chief, Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan, issued a statement gainsaying the three governments' claims.

"The European passports used by the team which allegedly killed Mahmud al-Mabhuh last month were not fakes and that Dubai immigration officers were "trained" by European security experts to spot such documents," he said.

"This training qualifies immigration officers to spot fake passports. They applied these procedures at Dubai airport when the alleged [killers] entered the country."

"No forgery was found in those passports."

The Dubai authorities also announced that their investigations now extended beyond the 11 individuals previously profiled to 18 suspects. The nationalities of the other suspects are still the subject of inquiries.

Irish government sources told this website that the numbered passports are "here in Ireland in the hands of the Irish citizens, so if the Dubai passports are using the same numbers, they have to be fake."

"It's likely that just trying to deflect criticism of their officials and passport control. The passports are fake."

The Dubai police also went further in their accusations that Israel's intelligence services were behind the killing.

"Fingers have been pointed at Israel's spy agency Mossad and its agents accused of using fake passports of European citizens," the statement continued.

"Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of Mabhuh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent that Mossad is standing behind the murder," he told the National, an Abu Dhabi-based English-language newspaper.

On Thursday morning the Israeli ambassadors to Ireland, the UK and Germany were invited to the respective foreign offices to discuss the issue of the passports.

During the meeting in Dublin, which was also attended by the head of the Passport Office, "it was stressed that, regardless of who was responsible, the government takes grave exception to the forgery and misuse of Irish passports which could devalue the standing of the passports and potentially put at risk the safety of Irish citizens travelling abroad," the Department of Foreign Affairs reports.

The Israeli ambassador, Zion Ephrony, said that he had no information on the matter and would relay the messages he had received to his authorities.

Following the meeting in London with the head of the British diplomatic service, Peter Ricketts, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "We have got to know the facts, we have got to know what has happened, we have got to know what happened to British passports. It is as simple as that. It is an investigation that has got to take place before any conclusions are drawn."

The foreign secretary, David Miliband, said that Mr Ricketts "made clear how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports, he also explained the concern that we have for British passport holders in Israel whose concerns have been well expressed by them, and we're offering them consular support."

"We wanted to give Israel every opportunity to share with us what it knows about this incident and we hope and expect that they will co-operate fully with the investigation," he added.

The British passports used by the assassins did not have biometric technology, making them easier to counterfeit, said Mr Miliband.

Mr Brown announced on Wednesday an investigation of the matter by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. Co-ordination of enquiries with the other three affected EU states has been established.

Mr Miliband, along with a number of other EU foreign ministers, is to meet with the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, in Brussels on Monday, where he is to raise the subject.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle on Thursday ordered the country's Middle East envoy, Andreas Michaelis, to meet with the Israeli ambassador at his embassy in Berlin, where he was to ask whether Israel had any information that could "help clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahmud Al Mabhouh in Dubai, and possibly provide that information."

"Given the information known so far, I think it is urgent to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahmud Al Mabhouh thoroughly," said Mr Westerwelle. "Germany will do all that is needed to help in resolving the matter."

All the countries whose passports were used, apart from Germany, have since said the passports were counterfeit. The German Federal Police are still investigating whether the German passport was fake.

France has also demanded explanations from the Israeli embassy according to the country's foreign ministry.

Separately, the case has widened to Austria, with Vienna on Wednesday announcing an investigation into the assassination after it was revealed that the killers used mobile phones with T-Mobile Austria sim cards. One line of inquiry involves the thesis that the command centre for the operation was located in the central European state.

Austrian police are also looking into the possibility that the sim cards were sold via Belgium.

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