Dubai investigators are nearly "100 percent" certain that Israel's Mossad spy agency was behind "European" hit squad slaying of a Hamas commander, the police chief said as the number of suspects rose Thursday to 18.
"Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder," Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim told The National newspaper in a report posted on its website.
The comments by Lt. Gen. Tamim, which appeared on a government-owned newspaper Web Site, came as international pressure mounted for Israel to answer allegations about role in last month's slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing.
London, Paris and Dublin summoned the Israeli ambassadors to explain how forged passports came to be used by assassins suspected of killing a Hamas commander in Dubai last month.
Hamas sources also accused members of a Palestinian faction of collaborating Israel to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh who was found dead in his luxury hotel room in January.
Hamas has blamed Israel for being behind the killing.
On Thursday Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim was quoted by an Emirati newspaper as saying he too was confident that Israeli agents were linked to the assassination.
Tamim was not available to comment on the report.
The police chief also told Al-Bayan, another Dubai publication, that the European passports used in the operation were not fakes and that Dubai immigration officers were "trained" by European security experts to spot such documents.
"This training qualifies immigration officers to spot fake passports," he said.
"They applied these procedures at Dubai airport when the alleged [killers] entered the country.
"No forgery was found in those passports."
France demanded that Israel explain how a "forged" French passport came to be used by assassins suspected of killing a Hamas commander in Dubai last month.
"We are asking for explanations from Israel's embassy in France over the circumstances of the use of a fake French passport in the assassination of a Hamas member in Dubai," the Foreign Ministry said in an electronic news briefing.
The French Foreign Ministry said it was "cooperating" with authorities in Dubai in the investigation, and the evidence obtained so far led it to conclude that the passport was forged.
Britain has said it will investigate how some suspects in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh came to have British passports — and how they might have been forged.
Israeli ambassador to London Ron Prosor met the head of Britain's diplomatic service, Peter Ricketts, after being called to a meeting at the Foreign Office.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Ricketts had made clear to Prosor "how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports.
"We hope and expect they will cooperate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister (Gordon Brown)," he said.
He said he hoped to discuss the issue further with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman when both men were in Brussels on Monday.
But, Lieberman said on Thursday there was "no reason" to believe that Israel's Mossad spy agency had carried out the assassination.
Brown has also ordered a "full investigation" into the fraudulent passports, which bear the names of six British nationals living in Israel.
The Foreign Office said the Serious Organised Crime Agency would lead the investigation in close cooperation with the Emirati authorities.
Ireland followed Britain in summoning its Israeli ambassador.
Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said on Thursday one of the three Irish citizens whose details were used had never been to Israel. He thought the numbers were randomly stolen but said he would seek further clarification.
Martin told national broadcaster RTE, We have invested "very heavily in the security of the Irish passport". It has significant international credibility and events like this undermine that and put the security of Irish citizens at risk. We are taking this very, very seriously.
In 1987, Britain protested to Israel about the misuse by Israeli authorities of forged British passports and said it received assurances steps had been taken to prevent future occurrences.
The National newspaper said Interpol had issued red notices for 11 suspects. This is put out after authorities in a country issue a warrant to help with identification or location of a suspect with a view to their arrest or extradition.
But, a UAE official, who has close knowledge of the investigation, said at least 18 people — including two women — are now suspects in what Dubai police describe as a highly coordinated operation to follow and then kill al-Mabhouh.
The list includes 10 men and one woman identified by Dubai police Monday as members of an assassination team that traveled to Dubai on apparently fraudulent passports — six from Britain, three from Ireland and one each from Germany and France.
Also linked to the slaying are two Palestinians in Dubai custody and five others, including one woman who was caught on video surveillance at the luxury hotel where al-Mabhouh's body was found Jan. 20, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with standing policies.
The official gave no further details on the Palestinians or the five other suspects.
In Gaza, Hamas sources accused men they say are members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement of aiding the murder.
Hamas security officials, quoting colleagues living like Mabhouh in exile, say the two Palestinian suspects had been members of Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza.
The police have also said two Palestinians are suspected of providing logistical support in the operation. They have not named the pair, who were extradited to Dubai from Jordan.
The pair fled, Hamas said, along with other Fatah activists and leaders, after a brief Palestinian conflict in 2007, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas's Fatah the dominant faction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Fatah officials, speaking privately, said two men whose names have been circulated by Hamas officials had worked in Abbas's Palestinian Authority security forces in the Gaza Strip until Hamas took over the territory in June 2007. But they denied that the two were still working for the same masters.
Reuters, to whom Hamas sources gave the men's names on Tuesday, has been unable to contact them. Emirati and Jordanian officials have declined to identify the Palestinians being held.
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.
Related news reports:Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2010, 17:14