DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai’s police chief said on Thursday he believed Israeli agents were involved in killing a Hamas militant in the emirate, and called for the Mossad spy agency’s boss to be arrested if its responsibility was proved.
As an international row over last month’s attack escalated, Paris, London and Dublin all demanded explanations from Israel on why passport details of their citizens had been used by the suspected hit squad last month.
Israel has stuck to a policy of “ambiguity” on operations by Mossad, refusing to confirm or deny that its agents had murdered Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top commander in the Palestinian Islamist group who was found dead in his luxury Dubai hotel room.
In comments to be aired later on Dubai TV, police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim called for Interpol to issue “a red notice against the head of Mossad ... as a killer in case Mossad is proved to be behind the crime, which is likely now.”
Earlier Tamim was quoted by an Emirati newspaper as saying he was almost certain that Mossad, which is led by former Israeli general Meir Dagan, was responsible.
“Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of al-Mabhouh. It is 99 percent, if not 100 percent, that Mossad is standing behind the murder,” he told The National newspaper in a report posted on its website.
Interpol said it had already issued “red notices” for 11 suspects whose photos were distributed by Dubai. Red notices are put out after national authorities issue a warrant, to help with finding suspects so they can be arrested or extradited.
The killings have sucked in several foreign governments as the 11 suspects whose photos were distributed by Dubai appeared to have used fake European passports to enter the emirate.
Britain summoned Israeli ambassador to London Ron Prosor for a meeting with Peter Ricketts, who heads its diplomatic service, to explain how several UK citizens living in Israel found their passport details had been used by the alleged killers.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Ricketts had made clear “how seriously we take any suggestion of fraudulent use of British passports” and sought Israeli assistance.
“We hope and expect they will cooperate fully with the investigation that has been launched by the prime minister (Gordon Brown),” said Miliband, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue further with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman when both men were in Brussels on Monday.
Paris also demanded that Israel explain how an apparently forged French passport had been used by the suspected assassins.
“We are asking for explanations from Israel’s embassy in France over the circumstances of the use of a fake French passport in the assassination of a Hamas member in Dubai,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Dublin followed suit, calling in the Israeli ambassador to tell it how the suspects had used passport details of three Irish citizens, one of whom has never visited Israel.
“We are taking this very, very seriously,” Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told national broadcaster RTE.
Mossad is widely believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as well as Iran’s nuclear project. But Lieberman said on Wednesday the use of the identities of foreign-born Israelis by the suspects did not prove Mossad involvement.
In Gaza, Hamas sources accused men they say are members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement of aiding the murder, a link that could inflame hostility between the rival factions.
Hamas security officials, quoting colleagues living like Mabhouh in exile, say the two Palestinian suspects had been members of Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza.
In the Gulf, officials widened their investigation beyond the initial 11 people. “The UAE is working on identifying five other suspects including another woman,” a source close to the investigation told Reuters. “The focus is now on trying to identify all those involved.”
Israeli and Palestinian sources have said Mabhouh played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in Gaza.
Among killings attributed to Mossad was that of Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyeh in Damascus two years ago.
Mabhouh, who was born in the Gaza Strip but had lived in Syria since 1989, was killed a day after he arrived in Dubai.
additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Stefano Ambrogi and Adrian Croft in London and Sophie Hardach and Sophie Taylor in Paris.