DUBAI: Police chief says 'one or two' more European identities used in Hamas killing
Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim returned to the spotlight after weeks of relative silence to reveal that "one or two" more European suspects are linked to the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh, but their names have not been released for "security reasons."
In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with Jaber Harmi of the Qatari newspaper Al Sharq published Sunday, Tamim praised Britain's cooperation in the investigation but said that other European countries are not working "in the spirit of cooperation."
"Patience has its limits," he warned, without specified consequences.
Suspected Israeli assassins allegedly used the identities of European nationals to forge fake passports to enter Dubai and kill Mabhouh. Experts say that Dubai has tried to verify the frauds with European governments before releasing new names.
So far, Dubai has relied on the cooperation of other countries to confirm or deny the falsification of their passports. If one of Dubai's European partners was dragging its feet in helping to identify the two unnamed suspects, Tamim comments may be interpreted as a warning to hurry up before Dubai takes matters into its own hands.
"In each case before they have checked with and tried to get the country to verify that this person may exist but that it’s not the person in the passport," said Kenneth Wise, a researchers at B’huth, a Dubai-think tank. "The goal is to protect the innocent but also prevent themselves from being caught up in something they can't verify. They don’t want to be accused of fiction."
The Sharq interview was the first Tamim has given in weeks. From the time of Mabhouh's killing in late January until March, Tamim acted as gleeful ringmaster to the media circus surrounding the Mabhouh case, holding almost daily press conferences and openly mocking the Israelis, whom the Emirati and the British government have accused of ordering the hit.
Tamim denied he was under pressure from Persian Gulf governments to keep silent. But one well-informed source in Dubai said that officials had in fact told Tamim to tone done his rhetoric and threats, which included barring those who looked "Israeli" from entering Dubai. "At the point at which he became quiet he had been strongly advised to become quiet," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Even Tamim confirmed that he received threats through indirect channels."I received one threat via e-mail, and someone called a retired police officer in Dubai and told him to tell me to shut up," he said.
He also said an unnamed Gulf official with what he described as ties to Israel also called to passed on a threat under the pretext of offering advice.“He clearly has the trust and confidence of the top leadership in Dubai," Wise said.
Aside from his dramatic flare, Tamim's police work was impressive, and his team's investigation eventually revealed 27 alleged Israeli Mossad agents traveling on forged passports from Australia, France, Germany, England and Ireland.
Tamim told Sharq that one of two Palestinian suspects in custody has been linked to the assassination, while the second will be released.
Tamim admitted that while Dubai authorities were unable to prevent the assassination of Mabhouh, they are taking even stronger measures to stop future crimes by beefing up surveillance, warning that Iranian, Western and Israeli spies continue to operate in the Arabian Peninsula.
Two weeks ago, Tamim said, Dubai installed 130 new security cameras in public places, bringing the total number of cameras in Dubai to more than 25,000.
Tamim's theatrics may have raised eyebrows among the Gulf's discrete rulers. But they also may make spys think twice before conducting operations in Dubai.
"He has an interest in sending the message that Dubai is not a place to turn into Cyprus or a Casablanca," said Wise, who previously taught international politics and strategic studies at Creighton University in Omaha. "Dubai may be using this investigation as an opportunity to clear out most of what Israel had here as its intelligence operatives.”
True to form, Tamim, who was recently named the second most powerful person in the Arab world by Arabian Business magazine, offered a dramatic flourish of humility when asked about his new celebrity status.
"I have neither the strength of Samson, nor the wealth of [Saudi billionaire Prince] Waleed bin Talal, but I wield the power of truth against an oppressive enemy," he said.
Top photo: A view of Shaikh Zayed highway towers is seen from the observation deck of world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Associated Press
Bottom photo: The mother of assassinated Mahmoud Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing. Credit: Hatem Moussa /Associated Press