Pictures of Palestinian engineer's suspected killers released by Malaysia
The men had a European or Middle Eastern appearance, fuelling suspicion that it was an Israeli hit
Malaysian police on Monday released constructed images of two suspects who they believe shot dead a Palestinian engineer. They said the men appeared to be European or Middle Eastern, fuelling suspicion that the killing was an Israeli assassination.
Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group has accused Israel of being behind Saturday's murder of Fadi Al Batsh, an important member of Hamas. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.
Malaysian national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the composite images were based on witness descriptions. He said the suspects, clad in black jackets, were fair-skinned, well-built and had beards, and were likely European or Middle Eastern.
Mr Fuzi said the images were displayed at all exit points in the country but said it was unclear if the men had fled Malaysia.
Police said the 35-year-old Al Batsh was hit with up to 14 bullets fired by the two assailants who shot from a motorcycle as he was heading to a mosque for dawn prayers in a suburb near Kuala Lumpur. Police said closed-circuit television footage showed the suspects had waited for him for almost 20 minutes.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Mazlan Lazim said the investigation had become global, pointing to the possible role of foreign actors.
“We are investigating all angles. I have to investigate very carefully and deeply. This is an international issue,” Mr Lazim said on Sunday.
Hamas initially stopped short of blaming Israel, saying only that he had been "assassinated by the hand of treachery". But later its top leader accused Israel's Mossad intelligence agency of killing him and threatened retaliation.
A string of Israeli officials would neither confirm nor deny whether Israel had a hand in his death. Several noted, however, that Israel is always immediately blamed for such assassinations even in cases when the country is not involved.
Several minsters welcomed his killing, regardless of who was responsible for it. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman estimated in radio interviews Sunday that Al Batsh may have been killed as part of a rivalry between Palestinian militants.
Israel has long been suspected of involvement in several high-profile assassinations of Hamas operatives, including the 2010 killing of the militant group’s commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel. It often denies involvement or refuses to comment on such operations.
The prevailing sentiment is that Mossad was indeed behind the latest slaying, as Al Batsh was believed to have been working on the Hamas unmanned aerial vehicle programme and improving the accuracy of its rockets.
Police have said Al Batsh had lived in Malaysia for more than seven years and was a permanent resident of the country. He had a degree in electrical engineering and lectured at a local university but police couldn't confirm reports that he was an expert in rocket making.
The engineer travelled locally and abroad to speak on Palestinian issues and was due to fly to Turkey for a conference when he was killed, police said.
Tensions are rising between Israel and Hamas in both Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza, protesters have engaged in weekly rounds of rallies ahead of next month’s Nakba Day, the annual commemoration of what Palestinians believe to be their day of “disaster”. Israeli forces have killed at least 33 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,500 people.
One of those killed included a 15-year-old boy, Mohammed Ayyoub who witnesses said was more than 100 yards from the fence and unarmed at the time of his death. The European Union and United Nations have both called for an investigation into the most recent deaths in Gaza.
Updated: April 24, 2018 11:40 AM