Questions fly as suspects in Hamas case are identified

Associated Press / February 17, 2010

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Dubai police appealed for an international manhunt yesterday after releasing names and photos of an alleged 11-member European hit squad accused of stalking and killing a Hamas commander last month.

The case - as presented by Dubai authorities - rings of clockwork espionage and detailed planning that included suspects riding the same elevator as Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was slain in an ambush-style attack in a luxury hotel room.

But questions emerged about the list of suspects after authorities released pictures, names, and passport photos identifying them as six Britons, three Irish, and one each from France and Germany. Ireland said the three alleged Irish citizens on the wanted list do not exist. In Germany, officials said the passport number for the German suspect is either incomplete or wrong.

At least three people who live in Israel share names with suspects identified by Dubai police, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported. Another suspect holds dual British-Israeli citizenship. Those connections are likely to encourage Hamas and others to press their claims that Israel’s Mossad secret service masterminded the slaying. Hamas has vowed revenge.

Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wings, was wanted by Israel for his role in the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers - something Hamas acknowledged last month. Days after his body was found on Jan. 20, Israeli officials also pointedly accused al-Mabhouh of helping smuggle rockets to the Gaza Strip.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it’s aware the holders of six British passports have been named as suspects but added authorities believe the passports were fake.