Although the government of Dubai has refused to involve Hamas in its probe into a group leader's assassination there last month, a Paris-based journal has revealed that the Islamist movement is conducting its own investigation with help from Iran and Syria.
Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim announced Monday that senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was murdered by an 11-member hit squad of mercenaries carrying European passports.
The group was responsible for killing the Hamas commander in his hotel room on January 20, a slaying that has elicited vows of revenge from the Palestinian militant group.
Dubai will soon issue arrest warrants for the 11 suspects, but Tamim said Monday that he had still not ruled out Israeli involvement.
"We do not rule out Mossad, but when we arrest those suspects we will know who masterminded it. [We have not] issued arrest warrants yet, but will do so soon," he told a press conference.
He told reporters that six members of the alleged assassination team held British passports, three held Irish passports, and one each from France and Germany. A leading suspect, who carried a French passport, left Dubai for Munich via Qatar after the killing, Tamim added.
Police released the suspects' photos, names, nationalities and details from their passports, which authorities said were not fake.
"Israel carries out a lot of assassinations in many countries, even in countries it is allied to," Tamim said, adding that Mabhouh may have been killed by electrocution.
Tamim said two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support in Mabhouh's killing were being held by police. Al Arabiya television reported the pair had been handed over by Jordan.
At Monday's news conference, Tamim revealed surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before Mabhouh was found dead; the suspects also checked into separate hotels. They paid for all expenses in cash and used different mobile phone cards to avoid being traced, he added.
The killing itself took just 10 minutes, Tamim said. Several members of the hit squad followed the Hamas man - even riding with him in the same elevator to determine his room number - and then checked into the room across the hall. Four assassins later entered his room in the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel while he was out, using an electronic device to open the door, and waited for him to return, Tamim said.
He added that there was "serious penetration into al-Mabhouh's security prior to his arrival" in Dubai, but that it appeared he was traveling alone.
"Hamas did not tell us who he was. He was walking around alone," said Tamim. "If he was such an important leader, why didn't he have people escorting him?"
Tamim said there had been at least one unsuccessful attempt to break into Mabhouh's room. It was unclear whether he opened the door to his killers or if the room was forcibly entered.
The killing took place about five hours after Mabhouh arrived at the hotel and all 11 suspects were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals, he added.
The mercenaries were apparently dressed in tennis gear and visited several hotels on the day of the assassination in order to remain inconspicuous.
Tamim said the suspects left some evidence, but declined to elaborate. He urged the countries linked to the alleged killers to cooperate with the investigation.
Tamim also said forensic tests indicate Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses are still under way.
Violent crime is rare in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates and a regional trading and tourism hub. Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Israelis are routinely denied entry.
Last week the Paris-based journal Intelligence Online reported that Dubai's secret service requested assistance from its counterparts in Egypt and Jordan, and from Interpol. Yet it seems unlikely that Egypt or Jordan could provide much help as both are hostile to Hamas.
The journal said Dubai's government had ordered that Hamas itself be kept out of the probe, but Hamas is conducting its own investigation, with help from Iran and Syria. Top Hamas figures have denied that Mabhouh was en route to Iran.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now