An 11-member hit squad carrying European passports was responsible for killing a Hamas commander in his hotel room last month in a slaying that has brought vows of revenge from the Palestinian militant group, Dubai's police chief said Monday.
The details given by Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim are the most comprehensive accusations by Dubai authorities since the body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found January 20 in his luxury hotel room near Dubai's international airport.
Tamim told reporters the alleged assassination team comprised six British passport holders, three Irish and one each from France and Germany. But he did not directly implicate Israel — as Hamas and Iran have done.
Tamim said it was possible that "leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill" Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas's military wing.
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Jordan has reportedly extradited two Palestinians suspected of involvement in killing Mabhouh to Dubai.
Al Jazeera reported that one of the Palestinians met with 'Peter', a man carrying a French passport who authorities in Dubai believe was the head of the hit-squad. The second man reportedly is serving or has served as a military official in the Palestinian Authority.
He said forensic tests indicate Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses are still under way to pinpoint possible other factors in his death.
Tamim sketched out a highly organized operation in the hours before the killing.
He showed a news conference surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before Mabhouh was found dead. The suspects checked into separate hotels.
They paid for all expenses in cash and used different mobile phone cards to avoid traces, he added.
At least two suspected members of the hit squad watched al-Mabhouh check in at his hotel and later booked a room across from the Hamas commander, Tamim said.
He added that there was "serious penetration into Mabhouh's security prior to his arrival" in Dubai, but that it appeared Mabhouh was traveling alone.
"Hamas did not tell us who he was. He was walking around alone," said Tamim. "If he was such an important leader, why didn't he have people escorting him?"
Top Hamas figures have denied reports that Mabhouh was en route to
Iran, which is a major Hamas backer. But the group has not given clear
reasons for his presence in Dubai.
Tamim said there was at least one unsuccessful attempt to break into Mabhouh's hotel room. It was unclear whether he opened the door to his killers or if the room was forcibly entered. The killing took place about five hours after Mabhouh arrived at the hotel and all 11 suspects were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals, he added.
Tamim said the suspects left some evidence, but he declined to elaborate. He urged the countries linked to the alleged killers to cooperate with the investigation.
Defense officials said Mabhouh was key to moving arms made in Iran or
funded by the Iranian government to Gaza. He was wanted by Israel for
his role in the 1989 kidnapping and murder of two IDF soldiers on
leave, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon
More than 2,000 mourners attended Mabhouh's funeral and burial at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, Syria.