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UAE ‘deeply concerned’ over passports used in Hamas leader’s assassination

The United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday saying it was “deeply concerned” that passports from countries whose “nationals currently enjoy preferential visa waivers” were used in the recent assassination of a senior Hamas figure.

The statement was the most high-level comment by Dubai or UAE authorities on the January slaying of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud Mabhouh, which some allege was carried out by the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

It suggested that the increasingly powerful Persian Gulf confederation was trying to put heavy pressure on European officials -- whose nationals are able to travel freely through the UAE commercial powerhouses of Dubai and Abu Dhabi -- to help it hunt down the perpetrators of the killing.

Meanwhile, both Hamas and Mabhouh were criticized for failing to take proper security precautions.

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A Hamas official told reporters this weekend that Mabhouh, an alleged weapons procurer for the Islamic militant group, breached security by calling his relatives and letting them know he was heading to Dubai.

Dubai’s police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, scolded Hamas for not giving Mabhouh a security detail or informing authorities that he was coming to the city-state, one of the seven emirates of the UAE.

“Mabhouh did not take basic security precautions, and if he had at least one person with him, [the suspects] would not have been able to kill him,” Tamim told the Gulf News, a Dubai-based English-language newspaper. “It was clear that he had that feeling that he was anonymous and he was not careful enough, especially that the suspects took the same elevator as him and walked behind him to his [hotel] room, monitoring his movements easily.”

The story of Mabhouh’s assassination -- in which 11 people using fake European passports allegedly entered Dubai and smothered the Hamas operative with a pillow -- continues to make headlines.

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Six of the suspects carried phony British passports, and others were said to have used French, Irish or German travel documents.

On Sunday, British authorities said they believed information from six of its citizens’ passports was copied at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

daragahi@latimes.com


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