Dubai's police chief said Monday an 11-member hit squad carrying European passports and disguised in wigs, fake beards and tennis clothes was behind the killing of a Hamas commander in his hotel room last month. Authorities also released photos of the 11.
Hamas military official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in a Dubai hotel last month, and the Palestinian group has accused Israel of being behind the killing.
The 11 identified suspects include British, Irish, German and French passport holders, police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim told reporters. A government source said six other people, not yet identified, were also suspected of involvement. Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Israelis are routinely denied entry.
A leading suspect, who carried a French passport, had left Dubai for Munich via Qatar, Tamim added.
"We do not rule out (the Israeli intelligence agency) Mossad, but when we arrest those suspects we will know who masterminded it. (We have not) issued arrest warrants yet, but will do soon," he said.
"Israel carries out a lot of assassinations in many countries, even in countries that it is allied to," Tamim said.
Tamim said two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support in Mabhouh's killing were in custody. Al Arabiya television said they had been handed over by Jordan.
Tamim said it was possible that "leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill" al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing. But he did not name any countries.
Tamim sketched out a highly organized operation in the hours before the killing, clearly done with advance knowledge of the victim's movements, and said the killers spent less than a day in the country. He said forensic tests indicated al-Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses were still under way to pinpoint other possible factors in his death.
He showed the news conference airport surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before al-Mabhouh was found dead. The members of the alleged hit-squad checked into separate hotels.
In the surveillance footage, which also included images from the hotel, the one woman among the group of suspects appears to be wearing a wig and at times wears a big hat and sunglasses to blend in as a tourist. Others were also seen on the footage disguised as tourists, wearing tennis clothes and carrying rackets.
Authorities appear to have linked the group through the videos. They are seen entering and exiting the hotel, standing together or in pairs in the hotel lobby and going in and out the elevator on the floor where al-Mabhouh was staying. They appear individually, sometimes in pairs or in groups of three or four.
They paid for all expenses in cash and used different mobile phone cards to avoid traces, Tamim said.
The killing itself took just 10 minutes, he said. Several members of the hit squad followed the Hamas man — even riding with him in the same elevator to determine his room number — and then checked into the room across the hall. Four assassins among the group later entered his room in the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel while he was out, using an electronic device to open the door. There they waited for him to return.
Tamim said they were careful not to disturb anything in the room and somehow left the door locked from the inside to try to hide the fact that they had broken in.
The team then headed for the airport, some of them flying to Europe and others to Asia, he said.
He added that there was serious penetration into al-Mabhouh's security prior to his arrival in Dubai, but that it appeared al-Mabhouh was traveling alone.
Tamim claimed the suspects left behind some evidence, but he declined to elaborate. He urged the countries linked to the alleged killers to cooperate with the investigation and said the photos and other information were being sent to Interpol and posted on the Internet.
Over the years, a number of Hamas leaders have killed in what Israel calls "targeted killings."
In 2004, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack in Gaza. One month later, another Hamas leader in the enclave, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, was killed when two missiles hit his car.
In 1997, Israeli agents tried to poison Hamas's exiled political supremo Khaled Meshaal in Amman, while in 1995.