Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brown wants probe as Israel denies role in Hamas murder

Brown wants probe as Israel denies role in Hamas murder

Palestinians protest by standing on top of an Israel flag during a rally Wednesday in Gaza. (Reuters)


TEL AVIV/LONDON: Britain will launch a full investigation into the use of forged passports by a hit squad responsible for the murder of a senior Hamas leader in Dubai, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday.

His comments came as Israel's Foreign Minister denied that his country's intelligence agency Mossad was behind the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai on January 20.

Issuing the first reaction by an Israeli official to suspicions that Mossad was behind the killing, Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday that it was "not correct" to assume that Israel was behind the assassination.

His comments come after revelations that several of the people named by Dubai authorities as being part of the hit team bore the same names as British immigrants to Israel.

Six of the 11 people whose names were published by the Dubai authorities held British passports, which the Foreign Office has said were forged.

"We are looking into this at this very moment, we have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care," Brown said in a radio interview.

Opposition politicians in Britain have demanded that the Israeli ambassador should be summoned over the affair, but the Foreign Office said Wednesday it had "not made any official representation to the Israeli ambassador about the case."

Brown said the British government would seek to accumulate evidence about "what actually happened" before making any official statements on the matter.

Meanwhile, Liebermann told Israel Army Radio: "I don't know why we take it for granted that it was Israel or the Mossad that used those passports or the identities of that British citizen."

Rafi Eitan, a former government minister and high-ranking Mossad official, was more direct.

"The Mossad was not behind the assassination of Mahmoud Al- Mabhouh, but rather a foreign organization that is trying to frame Israel," he told the radio station.

Al-Mabhouh, 50, one of the founders of the Hamas military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, was found dead in his hotel room on January 20, a day after arriving in Dubai.

The authorities in the United Arab Emirates have named 11 European passport holders in connection with the case, including the six Britons, three Irish, a German and a French citizen.

Two of the British men, who have lived in Israel for many years, were reported Wednesday to have been shocked at the use of their identity.

According to the BBC, Israel-based Melvyn Mildiner, 31, who holds a British and Israeli passport, said he had never been to Dubai.

"Wow, I didn't know that (the number) was out. That's horrid," he said, adding: "I have never been to Dubai."

Mildiner also revealed that although the name and number of the travel papers matched his own, the date of birth was off by a few days.

British-born Paul Keeley, 42, a builder who has lived on a Kibbutz in northern Israel for the past 15 years and had not left Israel for two years, the BBC and the Daily Telegraph reported.

"When I first heard about this I immediately looked to make sure my passport was still there and it was," he said.

"It has not been stolen so I don't know what on earth has happened," he added. "It is all very worrying but I know I have not done anything wrong."

Those traveling with UK documents were named as Michael Lawrence Barney, James Leonard Clarke, Jonathan Louis Graham, Paul John Keeley, Stephen Daniel Hodes and Melvyn Adam Mildiner.

It is believed that while details like the names, numbers and dates of birth on the suspect passports matched the originals, the photographs and signatures differed.

Dubai's police chief Lt. Col. Dhafi Khalfan Tamim said the identities of the suspects had been passed to Interpol, so that international warrants for their arrest may be issued.

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