- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Dubai’s police chief said Monday an 11-member hit squad with European passports was responsible for the mysterious killing of a Hamas commander in his hotel room last month and released their photos, names, nationalities and passport numbers.

Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim did not directly implicate Israel, as the Islamic militant group has. But the details he released at a news conference in the Gulf emirate are the most comprehensive accusations by Dubai authorities since the body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found Jan. 20 in his luxury hotel room near Dubai’s international airport.

Gen. Tamim said it was possible that “leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill” Mr. al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing. But he did not name any countries.

Hamas has accused Israel and vowed revenge.

Gen. Tamim sketched out a highly organized operation in the hours before the killing, clearly done with advance knowledge of the victim’s movements, and said the killers spent less than a day in the country. He said forensic tests indicated Mr. al-Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses were under way to pinpoint other possible factors in his death.

He showed the news conference surveillance video of the purported assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before Mr. al-Mabhouh was found dead. They checked into separate hotels and wore disguises that included wigs and fake beards during the operation, he said.

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 team watched Mr. al-Mabhouh check in to his hotel and later booked a room across from the Hamas commander, Gen. Tamim said.

He added that there was “serious penetration into al-Mabhouh’s security prior to his arrival” in Dubai, but that it appeared Mr. al-Mabhouh was traveling alone.

“Hamas did not tell us who he was. He was walking around alone,” said Gen. Tamim. “If he was such an important leader, why didn’t he have people escorting him?”

Gen. Tamim said there was at least one unsuccessful attempt to break into Mr. al-Mabhouh’s hotel room. It was not clear whether he opened the door to his killers or if the room was forcibly entered.

The killing took place about five hours after Mr. al-Mabhouh arrived at the hotel and all the 11 suspects were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals, he added.

Gen. Tamim claimed the suspects left behind some evidence, but he declined to elaborate. He urged the countries linked to the suspects to cooperate with the investigation and said the photos and other information were being sent to Interpol and posted on the Internet.

He did not say whether any of the suspects have been formally charged by prosecutors in Dubai, one of seven semiautonomous emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.

Gen. Tamim told reporters the team was composed of six British passport holders, three Irish and one each from France and Germany. Hamas has accused Israel’s Mossad secret service of carrying out the killing and has pledged to strike back.

Britain’s Foreign Office declined to comment Monday on the allegations while officials seek more information on the case and the individuals named by Gen. Tamim.

AP writer David Stringer contributed to this report.

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