The Mossad assassination squad who killed a Hamas official a year ago today could not have known that 25,000 security cameras watch over Dubai.
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
DUBAI // The last moments of the Hamas official Mahmoud al Mabhouh, who was murdered a year ago today, were captured on video by Dubai's sophisticated CCTV network.
At the time, police said they were able to identify the Mossad death squad behind the murder by analysing 1,700 hours of film footage, and attributed their success in the case to the heavy presence of cameras in the emirate.
There are 25,000 security cameras in Dubai, watching over the city and its estimated 60,000 buildings.
It is not known how many of those cameras are directly linked to the police's central operations room, but the 3,000 cameras in Dubai International Airport - which played an essential role in identifying the assassination squad - are all part of the live stream monitored by the police 24 hours a day at the Command and Control Centre.
Colonel Omar al Shamsi, the head of the centre, describes the operation room as the spine of the police force.
"Decision makers sit here to evaluate any emergency situation," said Col al Shamsi.
The centre is connected to all police resources - including ambulance services, the rescue department, criminal investigation units, riot police and police air response teams.
The centre monitors live streams from cameras in malls, as well as those installed at strategic points across the city.
Around 70 officers are on duty around the clock to handle and respond to the 8,000 to 10,000 calls the centre receives on an average day. The Command and Control Centre's main monitoring room is oval in shape; rows of workstations are arranged around a video wall, giving all personnel a clear view.
The centre's central video screen, the heart of the endeavour, measures 4m by 14m and can be subdivided to air as many as 40 different feeds at one time.
The emirate is divided into 7km squares, and police patrols are stationed so that they can reach any point in their square within 7 minutes.
The operation room uses special software that is designed to facilitate communication between the centre's different sections.
Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department are also assigned to the centre, and they are able to remotely control cameras and track a suspect's movement and actions.
Col al Shamsi says that not all cameras in Dubai are linked to the operation room - cameras in hotels, private establishments and most tourist attractions remain independent.
"With regard to these places, we get involved only so far as to say where the cameras should be positioned from a security perspective. And we only request access to footage in the case of a crime, after obtaining legal permission from the public prosecutor. This is what happened in our investigation of the Al Mabhouh case," said Col al Shamsi.
The heavy presence of cameras has, naturally, raised concerns about privacy, but Col al Shamsi insists the centre respects privacy and says there are regulations in place to ensure that.
"People's secrets and privacy is a red line which we do not cross; our priority remains to save lives," he said.
Diary of death: fake passports, expelled diplomats and an arrest
DUBAI // A year after the assassination of a Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh, Dubai’s police chief said he was still confident the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
Al Mabhouh, the founder of Ezzedeen al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, was murdered in his hotel room in the Bustan Rotana on January 19, just hours after he entered the country.
Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said the operation would not fail as long as there was continued consent and co-operation from the international community.
“Red notices against the suspects are being distributed in airports across the world,” said Lt Gen Tamim. “The executors of this operation are being watched and they can no longer move the way they used to.”
Lt Gen Tamim also said the work of a special unit – created after the assassination to track and detect Israeli intelligence agents – was ongoing. Dubai Police publicly pointed the finger at Mossad a month after the murder.
“We continuously monitor the movement of Mossad in our country. Combatting their espionage should always be a strategic objective for our security apparatus,” he said.
Here is a diary of the events of the crime and the investigation as they unfolded:
Mahmoud al Mabhouh, 50, a senior Hamas official, is murdered in his Bustan Rotana hotel room just five hours after entering the UAE. The alleged killers flee the country before the death is discovered.
The body of al Mabhouh is discovered by a cleaner about 17 hours after his death. Police start investigating the possibility of murder after they realise his political role in Hamas.
Hamas officials in Damascus announce the murder of al Mabhouh and accuse the Israeli intelligence service Mossad of having carried out the killing. Dubai Police confirm the incident and say they are investigating.
Dubai Police release the photos and names of 11 people suspected of involvement in the assassination and reveal they entered the country on European passports, including six from the UK, three from Ireland, and one from Germany and another from France. They also release CCTV footage that pinpoints the movements of the suspects prior to the operation.
International arrest warrants are issued for the 11 suspects. “The red notices have been issued with their names and features ... based on evidence we provided to Interpol,” says Lt Gen Tamim , the Dubai police chief. British and Irish officials announce the passports used were fake. Interpol says the notices have made note of the fact that aliases and fake documents were used during the suspects’ travels.
The then British prime minister, Gordon Brown, promises a wide-ranging inquiry into how six of the suspected assassins obtained UK passports. Lt Gen Tamim says he is 99 per cent certain Mossad is behind the murder. It is the first open accusation of the Israeli intelligence service made by the UAE.
Dubai Police release a list of 15 additional names and photos of people they said were involved in the assassination, raising the number of people wanted for questioning to 26. Of the passports used by the 15 new suspects, six are British, three Irish, three French and three Australian. As with most of the 11 suspects named the week before, it is believed the assassination squad used identities stolen from innocent people with dual nationality, who lived in Israel.
Dubai Police announce toxicology tests on al Mabhouh have revealed traces of succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant that causes temporary paralysis and would have made it impossible for him to struggle against his assassins.
Britain expels a senior Israeli diplomat for the theft of UK identities by the assassins of al Mabhouh.
The Australian government orders the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat after an investigation concludes Israel was responsible for the “abuse” of passports used in the murder.
Polish police arrest Uri Brodsky, a suspected Mossad agent sought by German authorities, on suspicion of helping prepare for the assassination. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Germany say the man was detained on suspicion of illegally obtaining a German passport for one of the members of the hit squad.
Irish foreign ministry announces it will expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged Irish passports by suspects in the murder.
Uri Brodsky, on trial in Germany for the falsification of a German passport used in the assassination, is freed on bail.
Lt Gen Tamim, responding to questions raised by supposed American cables on WikiLeaks, says keeping quiet about the assassination “was never an option” for him.