DUBAI // It began as a routine investigation into an apparent death by natural causes, but soon grew into the most high-profile murder investigation in Dubai Police's history as detectives discovered the victim was a Hamas commander targeted by Israel and all the evidence pointed to an organised murder.
The death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in January set off an international storm. The case made headlines across the world, with Israel and its ruthless secret intelligence agency, Mossad, widely blamed for the murder. Police released chilling CCTV images showing the victim just moments before his death being trailed around his hotel by the assassins disguised as guests. The murder triggered a diplomatic row, which still continues, after it emerged that the killers had been travelling on fake passports from a host of Western countries. A number of Israeli diplomats were expelled in protest.
This month Polish authorities, acting on a request from Germany, arrested one person in connection with the assassination; a move that the chief of Dubai Police, Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, thinks could prove to be a breakthrough. In an exclusive interview with The National, Lt Gen Tamim said the arrest of a man suspected by the Germans to have aided one of the killers in illegally obtaining a German passport could be vital to the investigation.
"This arrest is the first in a series which will bring the case forward. I believe strongly that the suspects will becaught sooner or later. Their pictures and names are all around border posts across the world and they are intensively pursued by the international police community," Lt Gen Tamim said. The wanted list has so far reached 32 suspects. Authorities in Dubai are putting emphasis on international co-operation to arrest the suspects after gathering strong evidence against them.
"Many security leaders across the world have sympathised with us and condemned this act. I am very pleased with the co-operation of the international police community and I believe that there is a strong will from all concerned parties to bring the perpetrators to justice," Lt Gen Tamim said.
Mahmoud al Mabhouh, 50, was murdered on January 19 in his hotel room at Al Bustan Rotana. His suspected killers managed to leave the country before the murder was discovered. Police compiled CCTV footage of the suspects, their passport copies, fingerprints and DNA evidence. The speed with which this was done surprised many. "To identify the suspects we had to push back time and we were able to do so through our CCTV cameras. We followed the movement of al Mabhouh from the first minute he entered the country," Lt Gen Tamim said.
Some 40 investigators analysed 1,700 hours of footage in order to identify the suspects, while officers said the assassins' poor disguises first drew their attention. Shortly after the investigation, Dubai Police started to point the finger at Mossad before eventually saying they were certain that the group was behind the killing. The misuse of European and Australian passports and investigations carried out by several western countries also hinted at Mossad.
Lt Gen Tamim said: "Many analysts, including some inside Israel, said the al Mabhouh case came as a blow to the Israeli intelligence agency. It seems that they were not aware of the technology which other countries like us have. I do not think they counted on us discovering the perpetrators." Earlier Lt Gen Tamim said that if it is proved Mossad was responsible for the killing an arrest warrant would be issued against the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
This time he said: "I am still convinced that an arrest warrant should be issued to Netanyahu but it is up to the attorney-general to decide this." He added that the case would remain open until all those involved were brought to justice. "One needs to be patient with such cases." firstname.lastname@example.org