DUBAI // The killers of Mahmoud al Mabhouh had help from within his own Hamas organisation, the chief of police believes. He also disclosed that police have asked hotels in Dubai to install "intelligent" CCTV cameras that can spot suspicious activity, and said his force could reach the offices of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, if it wanted to.
Admitting that he could not know for certain which faction the two Palestinians extradited from Jordan over the killing belonged, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim told Al Jazeera television yesterday: "I believe that someone from Hamas helped the assassins with the operation. "I understand that Hamas might be upset to hear me say that, but it's my personal opinion and it's clear to me that someone from Hamas helped.
"Hamas and Fatah are exchanging accusations over who the two Palestinians belong to. We don't know. Even if one of them said that he belonged to a particular group, we cannot be sure they are not lying." Gen Tamim admitted that his officers had only realised al Mabhouh's role in Hamas when the dead man's family contacted them. He said they had not previously known the Hamas commander was in Dubai.
Al Mabhouh was found dead in his room in Al Bustan Rotana hotel on January 20. As well as extraditing two Palestinians from Jordan, police have released the names and nationalities of 26 suspects. However, most turned out to be identities apparently stolen from people with dual citizenship living in Israel. Of the passports used by the suspects, 12 were British, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German.
Earlier this week, Australia sent a team to Israel to investigate the apparent misuse of its passports by the alleged assassination squad. A team of British police investigators, including some from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, also travelled to Israel to interview six dual British-Israeli nationals who have been named. Gen Tamim has previously accused Mossad of masterminding the killing.
In an interview with Al Arabia TV, Gen Tamim said the police had not realised al Mabhouh was a Hamas leader before his death was reported. "We never knew he was al Mabhouh and he travels to several countries such as China and he uses his Palestinian passport." Gen Tamim said the hotel was alerted to al Mabhouh's death by a friend in Dubai. "His friend sent him an SMS saying he would be waiting for him in a cafe. Al Mabhouh did not text back nor did he pick up the calls.
"His friend came to the hotel in the afternoon, and asked the hotel to make sure his friend was in his room. They went to his room and found him dead and called the police." He added that the room had been tidied up. "He was lying on his bed, comfortably and it looked like a natural death. Even at the beginning, the forensic doctor said the death seemed natural." The friend then called al Mabhouh's family and told them he had died. His family then called the police to tell them he was a Hamas leader.
"A Dubai high-ranking officer who received this information changed the course of the investigation 180 degrees. Had they not called us from Palestine, we would not know who he was." The forensic investigation showed he was suffocated and paralysed. "We announced that he was injected with a substance twice in his thigh that paralysed him," said Gen Tamim. Although the videos did not show them getting into the room, the police followed leads from suspicious activities of the assassins. One was dressed in tennis gear despite his unathletic build.
"It was clear he was not a tennis player, perhaps never played," said Gen Tamim. "Also, none of them lived in this hotel but one of them, for example, was blocking the people's way into the rooms so we suspected them. "Another example was the one we dubbed as 'Abu Karsh' [the man of the belly], who wore sports clothes. He was confused, reluctant and wore these clothes but he stayed in the lobby for hours while he was supposed to go and play tennis."
He also accused the assassins of using outmoded techniques. "The mistake they made was that even the disguise was primitive, the '70s style," said Gen Tamim. "If they want a training course in disguise, we would be happy to oblige. "It seems time is ahead of them, meaning they use disguise methods that had become obsolete more than 20 years ago." He said the police suspected Mossad because of accumulated evidence.
"They had passports they played with and even the one whose passport was proven to be genuine, the German one, the German government said he was Israeli." He said Dubai Police had requested that all hotels install "intelligent" cameras that could identify "suspicious" activities, such as when "Abu Karsha" stayed in the lobby for several hours wearing sports clothes and was not a hotel resident. He reiterated that Dubai Police did not solely rely on the cameras footage to identify the suspects. "There is DNA prints and other forensic evidence," he said.
Gen Tamim said "not all the passports [used by the suspects] were fake". "Two of the suspects went to the US with the same passports. Can we say the US could not catch them?" Gen Tamim said Dubai Police had the resources and the ability to "reach the offices of the Mossad" and catch the suspects but that they were not interested in "bloodshed" and would follow official, legal channels. He also dismissed the suggestion that Dubai had become a "land for account settlements" where assassins could kill with impunity, citing the police's success in identifying the killers of the Chechen warlord, Sulim Yamadayev, last March in Dubai.
"People think we are still living in our tents - there is always a trace, and a Bedouin can identify the owner of the camel by its trace. "We will never give up achieving more progress. As police, we've learned not to lose hope - especially as long as we have DNA, pictures, fingerprints." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org