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Middle east

British police probe passports used in Hamas murder

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-27

Dubai police say most of the suspects linked to the January murder of a senior Hamas militant are in Israel, where British police arrived Saturday to investigate the suspects' use of Western travel documents, including British passports.

AFP - Most suspects linked to the murder of a senior Hamas militant are in Israel, Dubai police said Saturday as their British counterparts were in the Jewish state to probe the killers' use of fake passports.
   
Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan pointed the finger at Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's secret service Mossad which is widely suspected of carrying out last month's Cold War-style hit on Mahmud al-Mabhuh in his Dubai hotel room.
   
Khalfan's force has published details of 26 suspects together with passport photographs, and has revealed it has DNA proof of the identity at least one of the killers.
   
"What is sure right now is that the majority of the murderers whose names have been announced... are to be found in Israel," he said in comments published in the Arabic-language daily Al-Khaleej.
   
"Dagan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head the list (of an international arrest warrant) if it is proven that Mossad is behind the murder," the police chief said.
   
Khalfan said Dubai police had succeeded in identifying the suspects from closed circuit television footage, even though some of the suspects wore wigs during the operation.
   
Israel has sought to play down the row, saying there is no evidence of its involvement. It has rejected the calls for Dagan's arrest as "baseless" and "absurd."
   
A spokesman for the British embassy in Tel Aviv said meanwhile that two of its police officers were in Israel to investigate the use of fake British passports by Mabhuh's killers.
   
"Two British police officers arrived a few days ago to interview British passport holders on the use of false passports" bearing their identities in the case, Rafi Shamir told AFP on Saturday.
   
The officers were preparing to meet six dual nationals whose British passports were used in the assassination, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency said.
   
"We are arranging to speak to the six genuine passport holders who are resident in Israel as potential witnesses to a crime," Britain's Press Association news agency quoted a SOCA spokesman as saying.
   
The murder of Mabhuh, regarded by Israel as a key link in a weapons smuggling chain into the Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, has mounted international pressure on Israel.
   
Twelve British, six Irish, four French, one German and three Australian passports were used by the suspects, according to Dubai police.
   
The revelation of stolen identities being used by suspected Israeli agents has caused a diplomatic outcry, with Australia threatening it would "not be silent on the matter."
   
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Saturday his centre-left government had an "absolutely hard line" on defending the integrity of its passport system and took seriously allegations that suspected Mossad assassins had stolen Australian identities.
   
"That is why the foreign minister has called in the Israeli ambassador and asked for an explanation," Rudd told reporters.
   
"Thus far we are not satisfied with that explanation."
   
Canberra summoned ambassador Yuval Rotem on Thursday and warned that friendly ties were at risk if Israel was found to have sponsored or condoned the tampering of three Australian passports, linked to the Dubai killing.
   
The Israel-based Australians caught in the passport scandal -- Joshua Daniel Bruce, Nicole Sandra McCabe and Adam Korman -- were among 15 named in connection with the murder of Mabhuh.
   
The real McCabe, a 27-year-old mother to be who has lived in Israel for two and a half years, said she first learned of her passport's link to the crime from a radio news bulletin.
   
"I have no idea how they got hold of my passport. Obviously it's not my photo," she told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "I don't know any of these people, I don't know the other Australians."
   
"I'm terrified, I haven't slept and I'm shaky. I'm worried for my health and I'm worried for my baby's health," she added.
   
Israeli ambassadors in four European countries have been summoned for talks and the European Union has also voiced outrage over the use of fake passports after an earlier list of 11 people was released.
 

Date created : 2010-02-27

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