Analysis: Dubai hopes for quick Mabhouh case closure

Police chief hints at Israeli involvement; analysts and bloggers are less vague.

February 16, 2010 23:11
4 minute read.
This combination image made from undated photos re

mabhouh assassins 311. (photo credit: AP)


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The Dubai authorities have been drawing up arrest warrants for six Britons, three Irishmen, a Frenchman and a German national. Palestinian groups are accusing each other of involvement. But in many quarters, Israel remains the chief suspect in the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at his Dubai hotel on January 20.

Articles in the local Gulf press and far beyond – not to mention the welter of talkbacks and blog posts – leave no ostensible room for doubt: It was the Mossad, possibly in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, that did the deed, its operatives hiding behind false European IDs.

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A typical “expert analysis,” from Dr. Muhammad Salah al-Misfer, an Arab political analyst, in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi the other day, ran as follows: “The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, encouraged the Gulf states to boost their relationship with Israel. Dubai decided to host a high-level Israeli official (minister Uzi Landau). And less then 72 hours after his departure, a leader of Palestinian resistance group Hamas was assassinated.”

“During the first visit of high-ranking Israeli delegation, a son of Hamas is being killed. What does it say to us?” echoed a talkback from Mustafa Tawil in Saudi Arabia.

“UK: Mossad behind terror of Hamas commander,” screamed a headline on the Iranian Press TV website, citing London’s Daily Telegraph as its source.

Dahi Khalfan Tamin, Dubai’s chief of police, also continues to pour oil on the fire, albeit only a trickle, and somewhat incomprehensibly.

“All those who seek revenge from others, if it was right for them to carry out revenge with their own hands and to make up a team of killers, so they can get their revenge, this is the way of mobs not countries,” he rambled at a press conference on Tuesday morning, without actually naming Israel. “And if any country in the world turns to follow the path of the mobs, they will be wanted by justice.”

Tamim presented a reconstruction of the hit, based on security footage from the luxury hotel Al-Bustan Rotana, other hotels where the assassins resided, and the airport.

“It’s clear that Mabhouh was followed while still at the airport,” he said, pointing out two men wearing tennis clothes and holding tennis rackets. Later, he said, this pair followed Mabhouh into his hotel elevator and then to his room, 230, where the other members of the hit team were waiting.

Two weeks ago, Tamin had named names, speculatively.

“It could be Mossad, or another party,” he said on February 1. “I don’t exclude any possibility. I don't exclude any party that has an interest in the assassination.”

With the security camera footage and the suspects’ photos now disseminated all over the Arab and international media, the Dubai police are giving every sign of wanting to solve the case as quickly as possible.

Tamim said Tuesday that Dubai would seek assistance from Interpol and press individual nations to hunt down the suspects.

“We’d be very grateful for such cooperation and we won’t [take it lightly] if someone refuses to help us,” he said.

Ireland came back with a response almost immediately, and it wasn’t terribly surprising or helpful. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin reported that the trio of alleged Irish passport-holders in the assassination team – Gail Folliard, Evan Dennings and Kevin Daveron – do not exist, or at least do not appear in Ireland’s records of legitimate passport-holders.

“We are unable to identify any of those three individuals as being genuine Irish citizens,” it reported. “Ireland has issued no passports in those names.”

Dubai may well indeed want to settle the case quickly, if only for the sake of its tourism industry. But every day brings new details, or at least new allegations, regarding the means of the murder, the identity of the assassins, and the activities of the deceased. 

“Mahmoud al-Mabhouh never meant to spend more then one day in Dubai,” Tamin told the local media on Tuesday, evidently trying to push his country into the margins of the affair. “Dubai was just a stopover on his way to other destinations: Sudan and China.”

Tamim also took pains to claim that the Hamas arms dealer/smuggler was not on an arms purchasing mission involving Iran, as has been suggested.

“Hamas has strong relations with Iran and he could easily have traveled to Teheran for this purpose,” the police chief argued.

Israeli defense officials have said Mabhouh was a key player in moving arms from Iran, or funded by the Iranian government, to Gaza. Hamas has described him as a senior intelligence official; it, too, has denied he was in Dubai to discuss arm deals with the Iranians.

For their part, the discomfited Dubai authorities continue to deny that they are cooperating with the Hamas leadership over the case. Said Tamin: “We work with governments and embassies, and we have full coordination with Palestinian embassy in Dubai.”

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