Thursday, February 18, 2010

Americans Will Do Anything to Slaughter the Palestinians

Americans Will Do Anything to Slaughter the Palestinians

Assassination squad: how a Hamas militant met his end in Dubai

February 18, 2010

Hunt for mystery assassins

Dubai is demanding a global hunt for suspects it says are linked to the killing of a Hamas commander.

Eleven killers murdered Mahmoud al-Mabhouh while cameras watched, write Paul Lewis, Julian Borger and Rory McCarthy.

As soon as Mahmoud al-Mabhouh walked out into the foyer of Dubai International Airport at 3:17pm, the foreign assassins had latched on to his tail.

Within five hours, the Palestinian militant would be dead, the apparent victim of a sophisticated team of killers dispatched to end his life in what officials in Dubai have suggested is an extraordinary tale of modern-day espionage.

Mabhouh was so closely shadowed that, within seconds of passing immigration control, he was forced to manoeuvre his baggage trolley around one of his would-be assassins, a man in a white baseball cap and T-shirt talking casually on a mobile phone. On Tuesday night Dubai confirmed it had instigated an international manhunt after law enforcement officials issued arrest warrants for 11 individuals accused of the ''premeditated murder'' of Mabhouh, 49, a senior figure from the militant group Hamas, in a case that could have a profound impact on Middle East diplomacy.

This combination image shows 11 suspects wanted in connection with the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Top row, from left to right: Evan Dennings of Irish nationality, Gail Folliard of Irish nationality, James Leonard Clarke of British nationality, Jonathan Louis Graham of British nationality. Middle row, from left to right: Michael Bodenheimer of German nationality, Paul John Keeley of British nationality, Michael Lawrence Barney of British nationality. Bottom row, left to right: Peter Elvinger of French nationality, Kevin Daveron of Irish nationality, Melvyn Adam Mildiner of British nationality, Stephen Daniel Hodes of British nationality.

This combination image shows 11 suspects wanted in connection with the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Photo: AP

Hamas has blamed the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, for the killing.

Reports have emerged that at least three of the European identities used by the killers were stolen from Britons living in Israel. Israel has refused to comment on the allegations.

Dubai police said they could not rule out Israel's involvement, and hinted at the involvement of spies. ''If the law of the jungle is the system for some countries, in the UAE it is rule of law that governs us, and if leaders of some countries give orders to their intelligence services to kill, this practice is rejected and is a crime in our laws, religion and Islamic traditions,'' said Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai's chief of police.

After going for a walk around the city, Mabhouh return to his fate.

After going for a walk around the city, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh returns to his fate.

The allegations were met with some scepticism in Israel, where at least one former Mossad official, Rami Yigal, said the operation did not ''look professional''.

According to the detailed but unverified account given on Monday by Dubai police, the killers began arriving in Dubai shortly after midnight on January 19. Their movement across the city was captured on CCTV footage, much of it released by the Dubai authorities, along with hotel records and flight data they said supports their allegations.

When Mabhouh arrived in Dubai 15 hours later, police believe his assassins, who were using forged European identities, tracked him to room 230 of the Al-Bustan Rotana hotel, in the heart of the city, killed him, and then left the country. The entire operation was completed in just 19 hours, they said.

The first two suspected assassins used the names Michael Bodenheimer and James Clarke, and respectively carried German and British passports. They were followed 30 minutes later by the only female member, Gail Folliard, and Kevin Daveron. Both carried Irish passports and arrived on a flight from Paris.

The pair were said to have taken separate taxis to the same hotel, in what appears to have been the first in a series of repeated, meticulous decoys and counter-espionage techniques.

Throughout their 19 hours in the emirate, members of the gang used cash rather than credit cards for their transactions and almost continuously changed their identities, switching outfits and wearing wigs and glasses as disguises, Dubai police said.

The CCTV footage showed Daveron appeared to have undergone the most extreme transformation, appearing in a hotel lobby as a bald man in a suit, before reappearing with thick black hair and glasses. Dubai police said the team used international calls to communicate and ''special communication devices'' to relay encrypted messages. Austria was identified as a possible ''command centre'' by police, who claimed to have tracked a series of calls to the country from numbers used by the assassins.

By the time Mabhouh arrived in Dubai, all 11 members of the team - including the alleged ringleader, a French passport holder who used the name Peter Elvinger - were in the country and preparing for his murder, police said. They included a man using an Irish passport and the name Evan Dennings, as well as five other British passport holders: Paul John Keely, Stephan Daniel Hodes, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, Jonathan Louis Graham and Michael Lawrence Barney.

Two Palestinians believed to have been involved in the operation are in UAE custody after being handed over by Jordan. It is still not known why Mabhouh, who was involved in killing two Israeli soldiers during the first Palestinian uprising in 1989 and, according to Hamas, was still active in the Palestinian militant group, travelled to Dubai.

Senior Hamas figures have denied reports that the commander was en route to Iran, which is a major backer of Hamas.

However, if the evidence presented by Dubai police is believed, Mabhouh's fate was sealed the moment he touched down on UAE territory.

After his assassins made an initial sighting at the airport, Dubai police said he was followed to the taxi rank and, later, to the Al-Bustan Rotana hotel.

Footage from the reception desk showed Mabhouh checking in at 3.25pm, as two individuals in tennis outfits - identified by Dubai police as ''surveillance'' operatives - stood nearby.

As a member of staff showed Mabhouh to his room, the assassins dressed as tennis players quickly followed him into the elevator, in what police said was an attempt to note down his room number.

Half an hour later, in another part of the city, it was claimed that Elvinger called Al-Bustan Rotana to book room 237 - opposite Mabhouh's room.

Mabhouh returned to his room from a walk around the city at about 8.30pm. He is thought to have been suffocated. Dubai police suggested four assassins may have entered his room while he was out and ambushed him on his return.

Dubai police said all 11 alleged killers flew out of the emirate shortly after. One of the final clips showed Elvinger and Folliard casually leaving the hotel at 8:52pm. She was wearing a striped sunhat, while his head was hidden beneath a white trilby.

Guardian News & Media