Dubai: 15 more suspects in Hamas slaying
Associated Press Writer
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - At least 15 more suspects carrying foreign passports were linked Wednesday to an elaborate hit squad slaying of a Hamas commander that Dubai's police chief claims was likely carried out by Israel's Mossad secret service.
The latest accusations by Dubai police raised the size of the alleged assassination team to at least 26 and further expanded the investigation's international web - now stretching from a bank in America's heartland to European capitals and Australia.
The police statement also left open the possibility the probe could widen and investigators were "not ruling out the possibility" of more accusations.
Some of the new suspects - 10 men and five women traveling on British, French, Irish and Australian passports - were allegedly part of "logistical support" teams that staked out Dubai for months before the Jan. 19 slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founder's of Hamas' military wing.
Although Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has said he is nearly "100 percent" certain that Mossad masterminded the killing, the new details add at least one incongruous wrinkle. Two of the suspects allegedly left Dubai on a ship bound for Iran - Israel's archenemy - after an alleged reconnaissance trip in August.
The police statement comes less than two weeks after Dubai authorities identified 11 suspects accused of using fraudulent European passports during a 19-hour operation to tail and kill al-Mabhouh in his luxury hotel room near Dubai's airport.
The mission was described by Dubai authorities as a mix of clockwork precision and spy novel touches, such as fake beards, wigs and tourist garb such as tennis outfits and rackets.
At least seven of the earlier suspects share names with people living in Israel, reinforcing widespread suspicion about Mossad involvement and bringing sharp complaints from European ambassadors about how the expertly altered passports were obtained.
There was no immediate details on the latest names identified by Dubai police, which also released a detailed flow chart-style diagram on the suspect's roles and clips of video surveillance.
In addition, police distributed a map showing the numbers of 17 credit cards allegedly obtained by the suspects from financial institutions in Germany, Britain and the U.S. state of Iowa.
Dubai police say the latest suspects traveled on a mix of passports that do not need prior visas for the United Arab Emirates or go through eye scans and other biometrics data required from many nationalities.
They included six with British passports and three each from Ireland, France and Australia, the police statement said.
It brings the total number of suspects using foreign passports to 12 British, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German. Two other Palestinians also have been detained.
Last week, Dubai's police chief Tamim was quoted as saying he was "99 percent, if not 100 percent" certain the Mossad was behind the slaying of al-Mabhouh. Hamas also has blamed Israel and has vowed revenge.
Israeli officials have a policy of not commenting on allegations about any activities of its spy agency.
But a prominent Israeli parliament member, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, praised the killing of al-Mabhouh as "good news to those fighting terrorism." She did not, however, indicate who was behind the killing in her statements Tuesday in Jerusalem.
Dubai police claim the hit team used credit cards obtained with the fake passports to pay for plane tickets and Dubai hotels, including preliminary scouting missions as early as March 2009.
Police say all but four were MasterCard cards issued by Meta Financial Group Inc., a lender based in Storm Lake, Iowa, that operates under the name MetaBank.
A MetaBank spokeswoman, ShaRee Schnitker, declined to comment because the bank is "trying to confirm the accuracy of statements by the press."
Dubai police tied MetaBank to another American company, Payoneer Inc., which provides prepaid MasterCards issued by MetaBank and other lenders. The role of the privately held company, which is based in New York and has a research and development center in Tel Aviv, was not immediately clear.
"We are aware of the news reports," Mary Kae Marinac, a spokeswoman for Payoneer, said in an emailed statement. "We are cooperating with the bank and the authorities to explore the matter."
Dubai authorities say other members of the team used credit cards issued by Germany's DZ Bank AG and two financial institutions with British links, Nationwide Building Society in Swindon, England, and IDT Financial Service Ltd. based in Gibraltar.
A DZ Bank official declined comment.
A Nationwide spokesman said: "We are investigating the reports and have no further comments to make at this point." IDT could not be immediately reached for comment.
The 10-minute compilation of video surveillance provided by police shows several suspects arriving to Dubai International airport.
In other segments, a man and a woman are seen entering a hotel lobby and exiting an elevator, looking like a young couple on a holiday. Another couple, dressed in formal clothes, is seen walking through a hotel lobby.
Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that the six additional suspects Dubai police alleges were involved in the slaying of the Hamas operative carried British passports.
"We will seek to make contact with these individuals and offer consular assistance as we have the previous individuals," a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.
"The foreign secretary and others have made clear we expect full Israeli co-operation," the spokeswoman added. Britain had previously said that eight forged British passports had been used in the killing.
The new suspects were identified as: Ivy Brinton, Anna Shuana Clasby and Chester Halvey, on Irish passports; David Bernard LaPierre, Melenie Heard and Eric Rassineux, on French passports; and Bruce Joshua Daniel, Nicole Sandra Mccabe and Adam Korman on Australian passports.
British officials offered slightly different spellings for the names of those accused of traveling with British passports: Gabriella Barney, Philip Carr, Mark Sklar, Stephen Keith Drake, Daniel Schnur, Roy Cannon.
Associated Press Writers Barbara Surk and Adam Schreck in Dubai and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.