Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3 Irishmen Accused of Killing Hamas Leader in Dubai?

This story on Yahoo News would fit right into a spy-thriller novel:
Dubai's police chief said Monday an 11-member hit squad carrying European passports and disguised in wigs, fake beards and tennis clothes was behind the mysterious killing of a Hamas commander in his hotel room last month. Authorities also released photos of the 11.

Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim did not directly implicate Israel, as the Islamic militant group has. But the details he released at a news conference in the Gulf emirate are the most comprehensive accusations by Dubai authorities since the body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found Jan. 20 in his luxury hotel room near Dubai's international airport.
Tamim said it was possible that "leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill" al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing.

He showed the news conference airport surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before al-Mabhouh was found dead. The members of the alleged hit-squad checked into separate hotels.

In the surveillance footage, which also included images from the hotel, the one woman among the group of suspects appears to be wearing a wig and at times wears a big hat and sunglasses to blend in as a tourist. Others were also seen on the footage disguised as tourists, wearing tennis clothes and carrying rackets.
The killing itself took just 10 minutes, he said. Several members of the hit squad followed the Hamas man — even riding with him in the same elevator to determine his room number — and then checked into the room across the hall. Four assassins among the group later entered his room in the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel while he was out, using an electronic device to open the door. There they waited for him to return.

Tamim said they were careful not to disturb anything in the room and somehow left the door locked from the inside to try to hide the fact that they had broken in.
The team then headed for the airport, some of them flying to Europe and others to Asia, he said.
The killing took place about five hours after al-Mabhouh arrived at the hotel and all the 11 suspects were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals, he said.

Police released their photos, names, nationalities and details of their passports, which authorities said were not fake. At least some of the photos released appeared to be passport photographs and the one woman among the group looked as if she might be wearing a blond wig in her photo.

Tamim told reporters the alleged assassination team comprised six British passport holders, three Irish and one each from France and Germany. Hamas has accused Israel's Mossad secret service of carrying out the killing and has pledged to strike back.

Targeted assassinations have always been a part of the shadowy world of foreign relations. I wonder if the heightened scrutiny directed at the actions of national intelligence agencies by the courts and media is creating perverse incentives for killing rather than capturing terrorists. After all, dead men tell no tales, so there are no embarassing details about sleep deprivation, water-boarding etc to deal with.