Images released of suspects in Palestinian assassination

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) –


Malaysian police Monday released computer-generated images of two men suspected of assassinating a Palestinian scientist in a drive-by shooting in Kuala Lumpur, as they stepped up a hunt for the pair.

Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, 35, was struck down in a hail of bullets by motorbike-riding attackers Saturday as he walked to a mosque for dawn prayers.

The family of Batsh, a member of Islamist militant group Hamas who was said to be a rocket-making expert, has accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing but Israel has denied the claims.

Kuala Lumpur police released photofits of the two suspects, who were seen waiting in the area where Batsh lived before the killing.

The pictures show two light-skinned men, both with goatee beards, one of whom was wearing glasses and a white and black helmet.

They also released images of two motorcycles, a BMW and a Kawasaki. Only one motorbike was believed to have been used in the assassination and police believe it could have been either of the models.

Mazlan Lazim, Kuala Lumpur police chief, told AFP a hunt had been launched for the pair.

"All exit points (out of the country) have been alerted and told that the two suspects must be arrested," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said at the weekend the suspects were believed to be European and to have ties with a foreign intelligence agency.

The scientist's widow, Enas al-Batsh, spent two hours at the hospital holding his body Monday.

Abdul Rahim Shehab, a friend of the scientist's, said the Palestinian representative in Malaysia was making arrangements for his body to be sent back home for burial.

"Fadi's parents want his body to be buried in Gaza," he said.

Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations.

Batsh's expertise in making weapons could have made him a target -- militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel, usually without causing casualties.

But Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman Sunday denied claims of the Jewish state's involvement, suggesting instead that it was a "settling of accounts" between factions of a terror group.

Batsh was married with three young children and had lived in Malaysia for 10 years.

It was the second high-profile killing of a foreigner in Malaysia in just over a year.

In February 2017 assassins smeared the banned VX nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, killing him within minutes.