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DUBAI: Questions continue to surround alleged Mossad killing of Hamas operative

March 14, 2010 | 10:26 am


Dubai police and United Arab Emirates security officials have launched an expensive, high-tech and no-holds-barred investigation into the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh, which has continued to rock the Middle East and the half-dozen other countries involved with every high-profile revelation.

Even weeks after images of the suspects bearing phony Western passports captured on closed-circuit television around Dubai were broadcast across the world, the suspense continues. 

The UAE’s Central Bank is also pressing the U.S. to disclose what documents the suspects used to obtain pre-loaded credit cards used to pay for their travels. The cards have been linked to a U.S. company headed by a self-described former Israeli Defense Forces commando and co-financed by a former Israeli military intelligence officer. 

But gaping questions continue to cloud the investigation into Mabhouh’s murder. Perhaps the biggest puzzle: What was Mabhouh, a native of the Gaza Strip now living in Damascus, doing in Dubai with no security detail in the first place? To buy weapons? Transit to another country? Meet a girlfriend? Conduct family business? 

The answer may ultimately prove the key to unlocking the mystery of the killing.

Dubai Police Chief. Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim told Dubai’s Al Arabiya television station last weekend that Mabhouh entered the country on a passport bearing a phony four-part name that did not include any of his own. And for good reason. 

“Had we known who he was, we would not have allowed him in to Dubai,” he told Al Arabiya. “We do allow officials from Hamas’ political office, but not members involved in secretive work.” 

Dubai’s police force has solved several high-profile murders, including the 2008 slaying of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim and the 2009 killing of Chechen warlord Sulim Yamadayev. Usually the Criminal Investigation Division of the local police probes serious crimes. 

But police in Dubai also suffer from the kind of institutional rot that afflicts so many departments throughout the Middle East. 

During a recent visit to their headquarters, one officer could be seen chastising a subordinate for shooing away someone seeking help because it was already 1:30 p.m., half an hour before the department shuts down for the day. 

In the Mabhouh case, UAE authorities in the neighboring capital of Abu Dhabi stepped in, security experts in Dubai said, bringing in the considerable resources of the well-funded, federal-level National Security Agency, the nation’s secret police, which is equipped with sophisticated gear financed by the nation's oil wealth. 

“You have a problem in manpower,” said Mostafa Alani, of the Gulf Research Center, a Dubai think tank. “You invest in technology.”  

The case is far from over. UAE authorities are prepared to go as wide and deep as possible, analysts said. 

“The feeling is not just that this was a violation of sovereignty and an act of state terrorism,” Alani said. “The perpetrators thought they could come here, kill someone and get out without any consequences. It was an insult.”

-- Borzou Daragahi in Dubai

Photo: The airy atrium inside Dubai's Bustan Rotana hotel, where Hamas operative Mahmoud Mabhouh was killed in January. Credit: Hotel website


How Dubai unraveled a homicide, frame by frame