x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

15 more suspects in Hamas death plot

Stolen identities remain the key as murder squad used passports from Britain, Ireland, France and Australia to enter country.

DUBAI // The number of people being hunted for the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai rose to 26 yesterday when police named 15 more suspects. Of the passports used by the 15 new suspects, six were British, three Irish, three French and three Australian. As with most of the 11 suspects first named last week, it is believed the assassination squad used identities stolen from innocent people with dual nationality, living in Israel.

The identities used by the 15 new suspects are Daniel Marc Schnur, Gabriella Barney, Roy Allan Cannon, Stephen Keith Drake, Mark Sklur and Philip Carr (British); Ivy Brinton, Anna Shuana Clasby and Chester Halvey (Irish); David Bernard Lapierre, Melenie Heard and Eric Rassineux (French); and Bruce Joshua Daniel, Nicole Sandra Mccabe and Adam Korman (Australian). Eight of the suspects travelled to Dubai four times in 2009. Police believe a total of 22 took part in the murder operation on January 19, in which Mahmoud al Mabhouh was killed in his hotel room.

Two Palestinians have been arrested and a third is suspected of involvement in the murder. Police believe one of the three has a "clear link" to the other suspects, and they expect the investigation to expand by a "maximum" of two suspects. The Dubai Police Chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said European nations had been co-operating in the investigation but called on them to do more. "Condemnation is good but what is really needed is the arrest of the perpetrators," he said. "Today it has become a duty on the European countries to pursue those who are exploiting their passports. They should work together with us to find out who has stained their passports with blood, they need to know who is violating the sovereignty of their countries."

Suspects using the names Brinton and Halvey came to Dubai on the eve of the crime and are believed to have been responsible for the team's communication network. Those using the names Daniel and Rassineux followed Mr al Mabhouh to find his room number, while those using the names Carr and Korman were the surveillance team assigned to the airport. The suspect named Clasby was originally part of the assassination team but left Dubai just as Mr al Mabhouh arrived, police say. Those using the names Lapierre, Schnur, Heard and Drake were part of the other surveillance teams.

Although police had said initially that the assassination team has used only cash, they announced yesterday that 14 credit cards - including 13 issued by a US bank - had been used to book hotel rooms and air travel. It is the first link to America in the operation. Officials at Meta Bank in Storm Lake, Iowa, said that to obtain the cards the holder would need a savings or current account with the bank and would have to be physically present to apply. It is not known how the cards were obtained. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said yesterday it was not aware of an investigation into the cards.

Justin Crump, director of threat intelligence at Stirling Assynt International Group in the United Kingdom, said the operation would have required someone in the US to set up an account. "It would have made more sense to pay for everything in cash. The account could be tracked back to the holder there," he said. The governments of the nations whose travel documents were used are investigating how the passports had been forged.

"The three names that were announced by the Chief of Police in Dubai today consist of the two passports that we were informed of on Thursday and one new one," said Philip Grant, a spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. He said that like the previous passports, the photograph and name were fake, while the passport number was real and belonged to an innocent Irish citizen. Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, is expected to make a "detailed" statement on the matter today.

"Dubai authorities have informed Australian officials of the possible use of three Australian passports in connection with the murder," Doug Trappett, the Australian ambassador to the UAE said in a statement last night. Last Monday, Dubai Police named six suspects who had travelled into the country on British passports. The names matched those of British citizens who had moved to Israel and whose identities appear to have been stolen.

"We believe that [the names released yesterday are] a similar case in which they are passports belonging to British citizens, but have been used fraudulently," a Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday, adding that the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency is conducting an investigation. It again appears as though many of those named may be residents of Israel. A Gabi Barney was listed in Beit Haemek in Western Galilee, the same kibbutz that is home to Michael Lawrence Barney, 54, who was named among the original 11 suspects. She did not answer calls from The National yesterday. Another Israeli resident, David Lapierre, also did not respond to requests for comment.

Experts said yesterday that using a 26-person team may have been necessitated by surveillance requirements. "They obviously knew that they could get into Dubai without that much effort, and ideally for a surveillance team you want as many people as possible," said a former foreign intelligence agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity. At first glance, the source added, such a large number of people seemed disproportionate for the assassination of one man without a security detail.

But "the bigger the team, the better it is to conduct surveillance", the agent said. "If you had one person sitting at the hotel for 10 hours the staff would get suspicious, but if you can rotate, then it's much easier. The source added that the suspect likely used western passports for a reason. There are 33 nationalities that are granted a visa upon arrival in the UAE. Those nationalities are also not subject to a routine iris scan, which was introduced at all points of entry in 2002. Travel movements of the suspects in 2009 Travel movements of the suspects in 2010

wissa@thenational.ae myoussef@thenational.ae * With additional reporting from Jonathan Cook, Loveday Morris and Zoi Constantine