DUBAI // Some of the suspects wanted in connection with the assassination last month of Mahmoud al Mabhouh bought their flight tickets to Dubai with credit cards issued in the same names as their fake passports, police said yesterday. Meanwhile, several sources denied reports that the two Palestinians being held in Dubai in connection with the killing had any ties to Palestinian intelligence services.
It is the first time the police have claimed the passports were used for anything other than gaining entry to the UAE. The official did not say in which of the suspects' names the cards were issued, or in which country. Al Mabhouh was killed in his room at the Al Bustan Rotana on January 19, just hours after entering the country. He was a senior commander of Hamas, which has blamed the Israeli security service Mossad for the killing.
On Monday, the Dubai Police released security video from the hotel and named 11 suspects: six British, three Irish, one French and one German. However, all of those identities have since turned out to be fraudulently obtained. Britain, Ireland and France have reacted angrily to the suggestion that a killing had been carried out using fake documents from their countries. "The credit cards were not used in the UAE," said the police source. "But the suspects bought the tickets to Dubai with credit cards. The credit cards used bear the same names as the passports which the suspects entered Dubai with."
The issuing of credit cards raises new questions over the extent of the identity fraud. The source said Dubai Police had strong evidence connected to the credit cards and the communication tools used by the suspects. On Tuesday, Jordan confirmed that it had extradited two Palestinians, identified as AS and AH to Dubai, as suspects in the assassination. Both were residents of the Gaza Strip until the Hamas takeover in 2007 and had in reports been described as Palestinian Authority intelligence officers.
Yesterday, Adnan Damiri, of the PA's security agencies, denied that the two had held any such position and refused to engage in any speculation as to their role. "We trust the investigation in Dubai and when the results come out we will have something to say," he said. Mr Damiri said Hamas spokesmen had publicly rejected any suggestion of Palestinian Authority involvement in the assassination. A close family source confirmed yesterday that AH was one of the two Palestinians detained in Dubai. However, he added that AH once worked for the Palestinian Authority intelligence service in Gaza as a security guard. The source, who is based in the UAE and was speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "I had a brief phone conversation with [AH] last week where he told me very quickly that he is currently in Jordan and that he would call me as soon as he came back," he said.
"The Jordan trip was planned for two months and he even suggested that I should come with him." AH, who is in his mid-20s, worked for the PA's intelligence service in Gaza before he was forced to leave when Hamas took control of the Strip. Although AH was still receiving a salary from the PA, it is not clear whether he was still working for the department. The family source said AH was no longer involved with the intelligence agency despite being paid a salary. "AH is wanted by Hamas," he said.
The family source added that AH had been imprisoned by Israel for a month in June 2007 "for his involvement with Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades" the military wing for Fatah. "But they could not prove anything against him," the source added. AH came to the UAE in 2008, the family source said. "He arranged a work permit and residency with the help of an Emirati man who owns a real-estate company. He sometimes helps his sponsor and other times earns money selling cars."
firstname.lastname@example.org Omar Karmi reported from Gaza