London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Only sixteen days after the official announcement of the assassination of senior Hamas military figure Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai, the Dubai police announced details of the assassination team which they say is affiliated to Mossad. The surprise was not in the number of people that were part of this assassination team – which today stands at 27 members – or that they used European passports to enter Dubai, but rather in how this police force was able to analyze hundreds of thousands of images taken by the surveillance cameras present throughout Dubai in order to uncover evidence of this crime.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dubai Police Chief General Dahi Khalfan Tamim revealed details of how the police force was able to gather and analyze this evidence. Tamim revealed that there are more than ten thousand surveillance cameras deployed throughout Dubai, adding that “we also have civilian cars roaming the streets with surveillance cameras. We did not monitor anyone [specific] and we were not aware that anyone wanted to carry out this assassination, however after it took place we were able to access accurate details and gather leads [to uncover] the entire operation.”
According to Dubai Police Chief Lieutenant General Dahi Tamim Khalfan, the operation of uncovering information about the 27 perpetrators individuals suspected of being involved in the assassination “included analyzing hundreds of hours of video recordings, as well as monitoring around 300 taxi drivers in order to know what cars were used by the accused, not to mention reviewing the records of around fifteen thousand Europeans who visit Dubai daily out of a total of 48 million travellers who visit Dubai each year.”
The Hamas commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh was killed on 19 January in his hotel room in the Al Bustana Rotana Hotel in Dubai. The Dubai police have said that they are almost certain that Mossad are responsible for this assassination, a charge the Israeli authorities deny.
As for how the Dubai police were able to uncover this crime and collect evidence against those responsible for carrying out the assassination, Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Bedouin looks at a camel in the desert and is able to know from its tracks who it belongs to, and on this basis, we were able to access details of the operation just twenty hours after it had taken place.” He added that twenty policemen “worked on analyzing these videos and evidence in order to reach the truth.”
Asharq Al-Awsat asked General Tamim how many hours of video recordings of those accused of committing this assassination are in the possession of the Dubai police. General Tamim replied, “We have a total of 648 hours of video recordings of all of the accused who number 27 suspects.”
According to Tamim, the police had requested that the hotels install sophisticated surveillance cameras that are able to track the movements of those being filmed. He also said, “We will not stop following up on advanced [surveillance] technology to reach our right of not allowing such abuses.”
However there is another important question with regards to the revelation of the presence of more than ten thousand surveillance cameras throughout Dubai, and the effect that this has on the privacy of the residents and visitors of Dubai.
The Dubai Police Chief told Asharq Al-Awsat that “breach of privacy in Dubai is forbidden by the law” adding that “we do not have anything [in Dubai] that could be called a violation to the right of privacy, and these cameras and surveillance tools are only used in extreme cases such as this assassination. In other cases nobody utilizes this, except a very limited number of people, who have access to the tapes that are recorded by the cameras around the clock, and what we record is clearly visible to the naked eye and to people in general as this takes place in public places.”
Intelligence experts say that al Mabhouh’s assassins must have been aware that surveillance was in place and that they would be recorded at the very least at the airport, and this explains the perpetrators appearing in disguises in Dubai.
Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim confirmed that it “was expected, and there is no controversy about” the accused disguising themselves.” However Tamim mocked the manner in which the assassins disguised themselves, telling Asharq Al-Awsat “I believe Mossad are living in the past and are operating in a manner that is twenty years out of date, as the way the assassination team employed disguises was extremely stupid and naïve. They continue to disguise themselves by wearing wigs, and among the accused there was one who disguised himself by wearing tennis clothes while his build indicated that he does not practice sports, and it was clear that he was acting suspiciously, especially as he was on the court for a long time without beginning to play the game, and he could not even hold a tennis racket.”
Tamim added, “If Mossad wants to learn how to disguise themselves and change their appearance we can send them a coach from the Dubai police force to teach them the right way to use better methods to disguise themselves.”
Tamim also confirmed that al Mabhouh “bought his ticket one day before [his arrival on 19 January] and the assassination team arrived on the same day, and this confirms that somebody leaked [information about] al Mabhouh’s visit to Dubai to this team, and this is a secret that certainly only those close to al Mabhouh would have known.”
Tamim continued to mock the manner in which Mossad operates, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “those close to them boast that the assassination team was able to lock the door on al Mabhouh from the inside, however this is not complex and many people can do this, and in fact we brought a Dubai police officer who could do the same operation of locking the door from the inside. Is this something that we should boast about in the same manner as some parties do about the Mossad operation?”
Lieutenant General Tamim also raised another point to Asharq Al-Awsat saying that if al Mabhouh was accompanied by bodyguards “this team would not have been able to assassinate him as easily as it did, and [in fact] it would have been very difficult for them to kill him. However when a senior figure comes without bodyguards then of course it would be easy to kill him.”
As for the Palestinians who are accused of being involved in this assassination, the Dubai Police Chief revealed that one of them had retracted the information that he had given to the investigators about his connection to the perpetrators “but he immediately
confessed after we showed him the video which proved that he met with them in Dubai.”
According to Tamim, al Mabhouh was scheduled to spend one more night in Dubai before travelling to China and then Sudan “but the killers surprised him in the hotel before his departure from the UAE.”
Tamim also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the passports that the killers used to enter Dubai “were not fakes as some are saying, and the evidence of this is that the accused themselves left Dubai following the operation for different countries, including [countries in] Europe and the US and Hong Kong, and they entered these countries without anybody being able to discover that these passports are fakes.”