Dubai passports
Copies of passport photos allegedly linked to the Dubai hit of a Hamas strongman. Photo by AP
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A suspect in the January murder of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was arrested three days in a Western country, Dubai's police chief, Dahi Khalfan Tamim, announced yesterday.

Tamim, in an interview with the United Arab Emirates newspaper Al-Ittihad, declined to reveal the country or say whether Dubai would demand the suspect's extradition. He said the arrest followed an international operation carried out by authorities in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in an effort to apprehend suspects.

Al-Mabhouh was killed by a hit squad in a Dubai hotel. Tamim said the investigation of the case under his direction had brought threats on his life, which he said were from the Mossad spy agency. Tamim and other foreign sources have blamed the Mossad for the assassination. Tamim said in press conferences and media interviews that the hit squad used fake passports from Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and Australia, an allegation that strained Israel's relationship with several countries.

Several months ago, at the request of authorities in the UAE and Dubai, Interpol issued arrest warrants for 16 suspects in the case in addition to the 11-member hit squad believed responsible for the actual hit, who had been declared wanted from the beginning of the investigation. Yesterday, Tamim said that the investigation would remain open until the suspects are apprehended, dead or alive.

The Dubai police chief said he has received threats to his life since Al-Mabhouh's murder from individuals who advised him to keep quiet. He said the first threat was made a few days after he disclosed details of the assassination through a series of closed-circuit photographs and accused the Mossad of responsibility for the killing. He said he received an e-mail saying: "Protect your back if you are going to keep your tongue loose."

He said Dubai authorities had managed to track down the source of the e-mail but he refused to provide further detail.

Tamim alleged that a second threat came in a phone call placed to one of his associates who was asked to convey the message to him that the police chief should keep quiet. The Al-Ittihad newspaper said the call was made by a "dual nationality Westerner, who was later confirmed to be a retired Mossad agent."

Israeli officials were not available for comment yesterday due to the Simhat Torah holiday.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any role in the assassination of Al-Mabhouh. Residents of Israel with the same names as the suspects, holding dual nationality, said their identities appeared to have been stolen. The alleged passport abuse drew global criticism. Ireland, Britain and Australia expelled Israeli diplomats.