DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai will issue arrest warrants soon for 11 Europeans identified by police and suspected of the killing of a top Hamas commander, and does not rule out Israeli involvement, the police chief said on Monday.
Hamas military official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in a luxury Dubai hotel last month, and the Palestinian Islamist militant group has accused Israel of being behind the killing.
Israel has refused to comment but a security source there has said Mabhouh played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel’s media have been unanimous in linking Mabhouh to the Gaza arms supply.
The 11 identified suspects include British, Irish, German and French passport holders, police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim told reporters. A government source said six other people, not yet identified, were also suspected of involvement.
A leading suspect, who carried a French passport, had left Dubai for Munich via Qatar, Tamim added.
“We do not rule out (the Israeli intelligence agency) Mossad, but when we arrest those suspects we will know who masterminded it. (We have not) issued arrest warrants yet, but will do soon,” he said, adding that one suspect was a woman.
“Israel carries out a lot of assassinations in many countries, even in countries that it is allied to,” Tamim said, adding that Mabhouh may have been killed by electrocution.
Mossad is widely believed to have stepped up covert missions against Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, and Iran’s nuclear project. Among killings attributed to Mossad were 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. A Hamas official and Israel said Mabhouh had masterminded the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers during a Palestinian uprising in the 1980s.
Tamim said two Palestinians suspected of providing logistical support in Mabhouh’s killing were in custody. Al Arabiya television said they had been handed over by Jordan.
Tamim said the 11 identified suspects had rented a hotel room opposite Mabhouh’s around the time of his death. All were believed to have left Dubai.
A police statement said the killers had adopted disguises including wigs and hats, used an electronic device to enter Mabhouh’s hotel room and lay in wait for him.
Mabhouh’s killing was the third high profile murder in less than two years in the United Arab Emirates. Violent crime is rare in Dubai, part of the UAE and a regional trading and tourism hub.
“The United Arab Emirates does not accept that its territory be used as an arena for settling scores, whatever their nature or cause or whatever the affiliation of those involved,” the police chief said in a statement. “The Emirates is a country of justice and rule of law.”
A Lebanese pop star, Suzanne Tamim, was stabbed to death at her luxury apartment in Dubai in 2008. A billionaire Egyptian businessman and politician was later sentenced to death in Cairo for hiring a hit man to kill Tamim, reported to be his lover.
Last year, former Chechen military commander Sulim Yamadayev was gunned down in an underground car park of a luxury seaside apartment block in Dubai.
Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and Israelis are routinely denied entry.
Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, writing by Cynthia Johnston, Firouz Sedarat and Ori Lewis; editing by Robin Pomeroy