What was al-Mabhouh doing in Dubai?
Operation commander, "Peter"- What is your real name?
Photo: AFP

Anatomy of an assassination

Ynet special: Security affairs analyst Ron Ben-Yishai examines Hamas man's assassination in Dubai in wake of dramatic police revelations, says assassins highly professional, some questions remain unanswered

The footage of the operation that culminated in senior Hamas man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's assassination reveals much more than what meets the eyes. Dubai is a crossroads of international trade, secret deals, and acts of espionage of all types. The local rulers are well aware of it, and they also realize that their wealth and the billions of dollars they earn from this economic activity are conditioned on maintaining security – for that reason, the entire principality is covered by security cameras, installed at almost every corner.


Dubai adopted the London model, and the fact that the city's territory is relatively small makes this grand monitoring project easier. As result, the Dubai Police and other local security agencies were able to quickly gather recorded material from almost any site visited by al-Mabhouh, as well as members of the assassination team.


Dubai Police footage (Photo: Reuters)


The people who according to Dubai's police chief assassinated al-Mabhouh were apparently aware of this reality, and therefore used costumes to hide their facial and body features; the photos were blurred as it is because of the cameras' qualities, thereby making it harder to elicit details that would allow officials to launch an international manhunt for the assassins. We can likely assume that both al-Mabhouh and his pursuers made use of genuine passports that were doctored in a way that would maintain their authenticity and integrity, but make it more difficult to launch a manhunt later on.


What did al-Mabhouh do in Dubai?  

Several important issues were left out of Dubai's police reports: What did al-Mabhouh do in the principality? Who did he meet there? A serious police investigation of the type presented by officials includes tailing the victim, not only his killers. The cameras that provided so much detail about the assassins likely also provided detailed information on al-Mabhouh's acts and the people he met. It appears that some officials in Dubai seek to refrain from humiliating Hamas and not get embroiled in a conflict – with the Iranians, the Sudanese, or other nationalities. Dubai wishes to continue serving as a global crossroads – without getting into trouble with its neighbors.


The video footage presented by the Dubai Police and the reenactment showcased through it clearly show that whoever assassinated al-Mabhouh did a very professional job. This included the arrival of small and separate cells at the airport, the close tailing by different followers, the preparation ahead of the operation, and the escape in its wake.


Electric shocker used?

We can assume, based on similar past incidents in the international theater, that the assassination team included more than 10 people who were divided into tailing teams that followed al-Mabhouh and reported his whereabouts to the team that broke into his room. Another team apparently engaged in the final contact with the assassination target. Based on the same logic, a small team commanded over the whole operation.


When carrying out these types of missions, operational bodies worldwide tend to make use of parameter security teams. It appears that such security team stayed in the corridor of al-Mabhouh's hotel room floor while four members of the assassination team were in his room.


Suspected assassins (Photo: AFP)


How exactly did they overcome the Hamas man? This issue has not yet been clarified on the basis of information revealed by the Dubai Police. However, it appears that the assassination team, or at least part of it, was in the room before al-Mabhouh's return. For that reason, based on what was reported so far, they used a device that stunned him immediately, without leaving any scars. This is why local police suspect that an electric shocker enabled the team to quietly neutralize the assassination target without causing a commotion. After stunning him, the team was able to carry out the assassination in a manner that would cover up the cause of death.


Cautious and discreet


Dubai police claimed that the assassins scattered pills in al-Mabhouh's room in an attempt to throw off investigators. Such deception would have given the assassins some more time to flee the United Arab Emirates had the body been discovered quickly. However, by the time al-Mabhouh's body was found several hours after the hit, the assassins were long gone.


Local police also published photographs reportedly showing four members of the hit squad enter an elevator. A pair of gloves can clearly be seen on the hands of one of them. In the photos, the alleged assassins are also carrying backpacks and additional bags apparently containing equipment used to break into al-Mabhouh's room and kill him.


According to investigation material presented by the Dubai police, the members of the hit squad were extremely cautious and discreet. They exchanged hotel rooms and contacted each other with cell phones connected to a European rather than a local network.


The Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya news networks reported that two Palestinians were detained in connection with the al-Mabhouh killing. According to the reports, the two either took part in the actual assassination or assisted the hit squad in some way. One of them is a member of the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus, the Arab news networks reported.


The report was not confirmed by the Jordanian government, and the names of the alleged Palestinian accomplices were not published. It is entirely possible that the report is part of Hamas' attempt to spread disinformation in order to link the Palestinian Authority to the affair as well.


פרסום ראשון: 02.16.10, 00:52
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