Australia warns Israel over Dubai hit

Canberra: Fraudulent passport use wouldn't be considered "act of a friend."

February 25, 2010 08:18
2 minute read.
This combination image made from undated photos re

mabhouh assassins 311. (photo credit: AP)

Australia warned Israel on Thursday that if it was involved in the alleged use of three fraudulent Australian passports in the assassination of a Hamas terror chief in Dubai it would not be considered the "act of a friend," the foreign minister said.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith summoned Israel's ambassador and demanded his cooperation in an investigation into the use of the passports in the killing of a senior Hamas figure.

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Dubai authorities are investigating the use of at least 26 possibly fraudulent passports in connection with the January 19 slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"I made it crystal clear to the ambassador that if the results of that investigation cause us to come to the conclusion that the abuse of the Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend," Smith told reporters.

Smith told Parliament that Dubai authorities confirmed to Australian officials Tuesday that they were investigating the use of three Australian passports in connection with the slaying, and that a preliminary investigation suggests they were fraudulently duplicated or altered.

"At this stage, Australian officials have no information to suggest that the three Australian passport holders were involved in any way, other than as victims of passport or identity fraud," Smith said.

Smith said all three Australians — Joshua Daniel Bruce, Adam Korman and Nicole McCabe — live in Israel.

In Melbourne, Sarah Bruce said she is worried that her son could be the target of reprisal attacks before people realize he was the victim of identity theft.

"I am fearful, but hopefully everyone will see that it is fraud," Bruce told reporters. "It's not his photo in the pictures they're flashing around everywhere."

Smith said he met with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah on Wednesday, and with Israel's Ambassador to Australia, Ambassador Yuval Rotem, on Thursday morning, to reinforce Australia's full cooperation and the seriousness of the matter.

Dubai police have outlined a 19-hour operation to kill al-Mabhouh, including clockwork precision and disguises such as fake beards, wigs and tourist garb.

Israel says al-Mabhouh played a central role in smuggling weapons from Iran to Gaza terrorists.

The suspects using foreign passports are 12 Britons, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German.

At least seven of the 26 passports share names with people living in Israel, reinforcing widespread suspicion about Mossad involvement and bringing sharp complaints from European ambassadors about how the expertly altered passports were obtained.

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