UAE | Crime

Dubai's sophisticated security apparatus checkmates Mossad

Since the killing of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room on January 19, Dubai Police have released pictures, images of their alleged passports and alleged names of 11 suspects, for whom arrest warrants have also been issued through Interpol.

  • By Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter, and Wafa Youssef, Correspondent
  • Published: 21:44 February 19, 2010

Mahmoud Al Mabhouh's portrait in Gaza
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Palestinian Hamas fighters participate a rally for the memory of Hamas commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, seen in the portrait, in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip.
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Dubai/Beirut: The amount of information that has been obtained from the footage of the events preceding the assassination of a top Hamas commander in Dubai last month is expected to leave its planners "surprised", regional news outlets and analysts have said.

Since the killing of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room on January 19, Dubai Police have released pictures, images of their alleged passports and alleged names of 11 suspects, for whom arrest warrants have also been issued through Interpol.

In pictures: Details of the prime suspects

In the long and shadowy history of assassinations of Palestinian activists and militants, the Dubai operation last month is unique in the amount of information that has been obtained from footage tracking the assassins.

Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim has said that if Israel's spy agency the Mossad is found to be responsible for the operation, its head, Meir Dagan, should face arrest.

He described the killers as "stupid" because their moves were "traced second by second" by security cameras.
 


 

Intelligence analysts and a former Israeli intelligence agent have said that the footage would have caught its planners by surprise.

In the footage released by the police, the assassins are often seen looking at the CCTV cameras and changing disguises in the same location, which analysts have described as having been planned in a sloppy manner and in a hurry.

Victor Ostrovsky, Canadian-born former Mossad agent who blew the whistle on the inner workings of the spy agency in his book 'By Way of Deception', told the Los Angeles Times that planners of the assassination did not expect Dubai Police to quickly put together so thorough a narrative of the events that led to Al Mahbouh's killing.

"It's a rush to action which is meant to show off the long arm of Israeli justice," he said. He added that the operation alone will likely cause Israel more harm than the victim could have "in a lifetime".

Analysts said the investigation was a major coup for the emirate.

"The attention given to the maintenance of law and order in Dubai can border on paranoia but it's a positive paranoia," said the Dubai-based director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, Riad Kahwaji.

Security analyst Ebrahim Khayat said the pace of the investigation had shown that the Dubai police were "one of the best forces in the world."

"The Mossad failed to take account of the capabilities and technical expertise of Dubai Police," he said adding that the agency had "blundered by using fake passports, triggering a crisis with European governments."

"The Mossad probably won't be able to use most of the commandos ever again because their photographs and fingerprints were on the passports."

Dubai Police's efforts in the case were also highlighted by Arab and Israeli media on Friday.

In an analysis piece by the Jerusalem Post entitled "Assassins may regret taking on Dubai's cops", Ksenia Svetlova argued that Dubai Police controlled the story by carefully releasing information about it in parts.

"… the authorities have managed two difficult tasks: controlling information and providing accurate and trustworthy accounts of the events.

"The world heard of Mabhouh's murder only when Dubai's authorities decided to let it be known, and not a minute earlier… Many people – notably including those who sent the killers – are doubtless wondering: how is Dubai doing it?"

An editorial in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi applauded the police for its handling of the investigation.

"The Israelis did not expect that the Dubai police would be at that level of security professionalism."

Although most in the Israeli press considered the operation a success in eliminating a wanted man, some were critical of the way in which it was carried out.

Yoel Marcus wrote in Israel's Haaretz criticising prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the operation. Israel however has not acknowledged involvement in it.

He wrote: "If the Dubai operation is Israel's work… it is a strange story, not to say a sloppy one: the use of passports of friendly countries, which were 'donated' by people in Israel and abroad, and the choice of Dubai, which is monitored by a dense network of cameras, as the scene of the operation."

- Additional inputs from Agencies

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