DUBAI // A man arrested in Canada in connection with the death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh had attempted to assassinate the Hamas official before, according to the chief of the Dubai police force.
Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim said the man was arrested in Canada in July.
"He has been in Dubai previously as part of a group which attempted to kill al Mabhouh earlier," he said.
Gen Tamim's statement is the first from Dubai authorities that alleges the city was the scene of a previous attempt on al Mabhouh's life. Gen Tamim declined to elaborate.
Al Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official, was murdered on January 19 in his room at the Al Bustan Rotana, which is near the airport. He had claimed that an attempt had been made on his life while he was in Dubai in May 2009.
At that time, Dubai Police officials said he was treated for an illness. Reports indicate that al Mabhouh was examined at Rashid Hospital after complaining of dizziness. The report states that he was half-conscious when admitted and was treated for a lung infection with an antibiotic. He was released from the hospital on May 10.
According to Gen Tamim, the man arrested in Canada is closely linked to man captured on CCTV footage wearing white tennis clothes and carrying a racquet while travelling in a hotel lift with al Mabhouh before the murder in January.
Gen Tamim also said he was frustrated with Canadian authorities for withholding information about the arrest.
"Why are the Canadian authorities withholding information? We need to know what the questioning of the suspect has resulted in," he said. "We need to know if he is still in custody and what his statement was. We need something in writing regarding that."
Gen Tamim refused to answer when asked whether Dubai officials had formally requested information about the arrest from Canadian authorities.
Officials in the Canadian foreign affairs minister's office referred all questions to the office of the public safety minister, Vic Toews, which did not respond. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada's national police force, also did not return phone calls.
Several western countries conducted investigations into the incident after it emerged that European and Australian passports were misused in the crime. Their findings pointed to the involvement of Mossad. Dubai Police also say the Israeli agency planned the murder.
Police investigators say the operation that resulted in al Mabhouh's death began last year, when several suspects travelled to Dubai using fake passports.
When al Mabhouh landed in Dubai, on January 19 at about 3pm, a surveillance team was waiting for him at the airport, police said.
Various members of the assassination squad tracked him as he checked into room 230 of the Al Bustan Rotana. He then went out to do some shopping. Investigators say he was murdered within minutes of returning to his hotel room.
According to police reports, the room's door was chained from the inside and a "do not disturb" sign was hung on the doorknob
By the time his body was discovered, on January 20, Dubai police officials say everyone involved in the killing had left the country.