The story of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s murder did not gain media attention until last week, when the Dubai police revealed that forged European passports had been used by the suspects.
Mabhouh’s assassination occurred within five hours of his arrival in Dubai. It has been suggested he was there for an arms deal. His suspected assassins are alleged to have started trailing him from the moment of his arrival at Dubai International Airport.
The suspects, who travelled on fake European passports, meticulously planned out the operation. They flew into Dubai on separate planes, and disguised themselves using wigs and false beards.
CCTV footage has been released showing two of the team, disguised as tourists carrying tennis racquets, watching Mabhouh check in at the luxury al-Bustan Rotana Hotel and following him into an elevator. Dubai police believe that four assassins entered Mabhouh’s room while he was out, and suffocated him on his return.
Eleven Europeans were victims of identity theft by the alleged killers. Of these 11, six are British nationals living in Israel. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has stated that the photographs and signatures on the passports belonging to the suspects do not match those issued in the UK.
Gordon Brown has so far spoken cautiously about the affair, stating the need to “carry out a full investigation”. David Miliband, foreign secretary, has stressed his determination to “get to the bottom” of the use of fake passports, while Conservative leader David Cameron has urged for answers from the Israeli ambassador to “some pretty tough questions”.
Israel has a long, dubious history of using foreign passports for its secret operations. In 1987 it promised to stop using fake British passports after Britain expressed outrage over this practice.
If the use of fake passports by Mabhouh’s killers is traced back to Israel, relations with Britain may be seriously jeopardized.
Reports are now circulating over the possibility that the British government knew of allegations that British passports were used by the suspects. Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague is claiming it is “entirely possible” that the government was aware of this within ten days of the murder.
Speculations are growing over whether the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, is behind the murder.
Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan has blamed Israel, saying: “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.”
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, insists that there is no proof in the allegations of their involvement, although he has not outright denied the claim, citing Israel’s “policy of ambiguity”.
“In some cases Israel has decided to close the circle and take revenge on people who were behind symbolic acts of terrorism” said investigative journalist Ronen Bergman. In 1989, Mabhouh is thought to have masterminded the capture and murder of two Israeli soldiers. His assassination may be part of a vicious circle of revenge.
As Hamas militants vow they will “never rest until they reach his killers” and promise vengeance for Mabhouh’s assassination, the cycle of violence looks set to continue.