Interpol joins international task force investigating Dubai assassination

Interpol joined an international task force investigating the Dubai assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The international policing organization also said it was convinced of the broad, international scope of the crime.

By , Staff writer

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    Dubai assassination: This photo shows Dubai's Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, who is leading the investigation, identifying eleven suspects wanted in connection with the killing of Hamas commander, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Feb. 15.
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Interpol said it would join an international task force investigating the Dubai assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh and issued "red notices" on Monday for 16 more suspects.

The notices, short of international arrest warrants but a request to Interpol members to detain the named people for extradition, bring to 27 the number of suspects that Interpol is assisting Dubai's search for connected to the Jan. 19 murder of Mr. Mabhouh. Notices for the first 11 were issued on Feb. 18.

"The creation of the task force and the publication of the new Red Notices came as investigative information provided by the authorities in Dubai bore out the international links and broad scope of the number of people involved," Interpol wrote in a statement.

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The agency also explained why a first group of 11 suspects were identified before the additional 16. It said that the first 11 were a "core group alleged to have carried out the killing" while the second group of 16 "is believed to have aided and abetted the first team by closely watching, following and reporting Al Mabhouh's movements from the moment he landed at Dubai airport until his murder."

The red notices lend additional credibility to the case being assembled here, though it does little for the likelihood of the suspects being caught, some analysts say.

By pressing for the international alerts, the Dubai authorities are “throwing the ball in the court of the Western police forces,” says Riad Kahwaji, head of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis here.

One of the suspects on Interpol's list had not previously been named by Dubai. The name the suspect traveled under was Joshua Aaron Krycer. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that a man of the same name was identified in a 2006 newsletter of the Zionist Federation of Australia as an Australian who had emigrated to Israel.

All 27 suspects entered the United Arab Emirates on forged British, Irish, French, German, and Australian passports. Several of the names match those of Israeli citizens who hold dual citizenship, thought those people appear to be victims of identity theft.

Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim has urged countries whose travel documents were faked to carry out a full investigation. He has also accused Israel of carrying out the assassination and last week called for the arrest of its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A ‘thorough’ investigation

Red notices, the highest of six color-coded levels of notices that Interpol circulates worldwide, alert law enforcement agencies worldwide to arrest and extradite the individuals named. Other classes of notification ask countries to gather information about people (blue) or ask them help find missing persons (yellow).

Red notices are issued at the request of member countries, based on national arrest warrants or court orders. But Interpol also screens the requests, looking over the evidence available and making sure it does not violate rules such as Article 3 of its constitution, which forbids intervention for activities of a “political, military, religious, or racial character.” Interpol also reserves the right to refuse any request it “considers unadvisable.”

In a statement about the Mabhouh case, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said that Dubai police had established “clear” links to the suspects. He referred to evidence – some of it not yet public – drawn from passport records, video surveillance, DNA analysis, interviews by witnesses, and data from hotels, credit cards, phones, and travel, and called the investigation “thorough.”

Police Chief Tamim, who is leading the investigation, has publicized a wealth of information collected so far about the murder, including a half-hour film compiled from CCTV footage.

Most red notices go unanswered

The red notices don’t mean the suspects will be arrested, especially if they are, as Tamim alleged, Mossad agents now back in Israel. Israel has neither admitted nor denied involvement in the murder.

The notices do not qualify as international arrest warrants, and nations can choose to act on the alerts or to ignore them. Many fugitives named by Interpol live happily and free from worry of arrest.

In 2008, 3,100 people had red notices issued against them, and 700 were detained (some of them may have been wanted from years prior). In 2009, the number of red notices rose to 5,020, or about 14 a day.

Despite their low rate of return, the red notices still provide value for Dubai. The authorities here are sending the message that they are doing all they can, says Mr. Kahwaji, the analyst. If nothing happens “it would make the international community look bad,” he says. They are saying, “if you can’t do your job, then don’t blame Dubai.”

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