ABU DHABI (AFP) – Dubai’s police chief said on Monday he is sure that all the suspects in the killing of a Hamas chief in a hotel room of the emirate are now hiding out in Israel to avoid arrest.
Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a founder of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 20. Police on Sunday said he had been drugged then suffocated.
“I am sure that all the suspects are in Israel,” police chief Dahi Khalfan told a media conference in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi.
“If they stay in Israel, they won’t be arrested, but eventually if they leave they will be arrested,” the police chief added, referring to a list of suspects passed on to Interpol.
Twelve British, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German passports were used by 26 named suspects, according to Dubai police, who say they had fled the emirate on flights to Europe and Asia.
Police say they are convinced the Israeli spy agency Mossad carried out the Cold War-style hit.
In a newspaper report published on Monday, General Khalfan said a 27th suspect had been identified, also travelling on an European passport but this time unspecified.
In Abu Dhabi, Khalfan appealed to the Western five countries whose travel documents were used to cooperate in the investigation.
“I want the states whose passports were used in the assassination to cooperate with us, and we’ll appreciate their cooperation,” the police chief said.
In many of the stolen identity cases, the documents appeared either to have been faked or obtained illegally.
The investigation has caused a diplomatic headache for the Jewish state in which the five countries whose passports were used have all called in Israeli envoys for talks.
Khalfan says the suspects would not have dared used US passports. “I think Israel was scared of provoking a clash with the United States which it considers its best friend,” Khalfan told Al-Khaleej newspaper.
Israel itself has sought to play down the row, saying there is no hard proof of its involvement. Officials in the Jewish state have refused to confirm or deny the reports, although Israeli media see the killing as the work of Mossad.
On Sunday, Khalfan’s deputy, Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina, said in a statement that the killers had used the drug succinylcholine “to sedate Mabhuh before they suffocated him.”
“The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural,” Mazeina said, citing post-mortem test results.
Succinylcholine, also known as suxamethonium, is used to induce muscle relaxation and is favoured by anaesthetists and emergency doctors because of its fast onset.
In addition to the suspects with Western passports, police have announced they have two Palestinians in custody, both residents of the emirate who had fled but were extradited back from Jordan.
Khalfan on Sunday told Al-Arabiya television news channel that one of the Palestinian suspects had allegedly provided “logistics assistance” to the hit squad.
According to the Emirati daily Al-Ittihad, a third Palestinian is also being held for questioning but there has been no official confirmation.