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DUBAI: Police chief mocks alleged assassins' 'primitive' disguises, paunches

March 8, 2010 |  9:32 am

Picture 10

Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, seems to be enjoying his job immensely these days.

Nearly two months after Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh was found dead in his Dubai hotel room, Tamim continues to keep the story in the media by leaking new information, embarrassing details and even snarky comments about the disguises and physical condition of the alleged assassins, thought to be members of Israel's elite Mossad spy agency.

“The mistake they made was that even the disguise was primitive, the ’70s style. ... If they want a training course in disguise, we would be happy to oblige," Tamim said this past weekend of the 26 suspects seen in surveillance videos sporting fake beards and wigs.

Tamim said investigators have dubbed one man seen dressed in full tennis gear "abu kirsh" or "the guy with the gut."

“It seems time is ahead of them, meaning they use disguise methods that had become obsolete more than 20 years ago," Tamim told the satellite news channel Al Arabiya, according to the Abu Dhabi-based English newspaper The National.

The fallout from the investigation has raised questions about the tactics and effectiveness of the Mossad, which is widely believed to be responsible for the killing, even among Israelis. The Israelis put a high premium on the deterrent effect of their armed forces and intelligence arm, and regardless of whether Mossad involvement can be proved, its image abroad has been significantly tarnished by the Dubai affair.

The lingering question for Israelis and everyone else seems to be: How could one of the world's most feared spy networks be so thoroughly compromised by standard hotel security surveillance? Reports from Israel seem to indicate that the Israelis were surprised by the scope and speed of Dubai's investigation.

But as former CIA officer Robert Baer, who also believes the Mossad was behind the hit, points out, the Israeli intelligence agency wouldn't be the first to underestimate the degree to which technology has changed the spy game.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Baer compared the Dubai hit to the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric from the streets of Milan, Italy, by CIA and Italian agents:

"Most of the CIA agents behind the rendition were identified because, like the assassins in Dubai, the agents apparently did not understand that you can't put a large team on the ground in a modern country and not leave a digital footprint," Baer wrote.

"It took a matter of days for the Italian prosecutors to trace their supposedly sterile phone to their hotels, and from there to their true-name e-mail accounts and telephone calls to family. We might as well have let Delta Force do it with helicopters with American insignia on the side," he added.

An Italian court convicted 23 Americans in absentia in the case last year.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: The alleged Dubai assassins were caught by hotel security cameras in various disguises, including tennis gear. Credit: Dubai police

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