Dubai assassination spotlights top cop skills in a modern-day Casablanca
Police Chief Dhahi Khalfan Tamim led the Dubai assassination investigation, using the latest tools and sleuthing skills to discover who killed Hamas official Mahmoud Abdul Raouf Mohammed.
He had a few minutes to call his brother in Gaza before his flight took off from Damascus, Syria. A cousin got on the line, too, and shared gossip from the Jabalya refugee camp, say family members. He told them to jot down the name of his hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He would be there for only a few days, in case the family needed anything. If he continued on to China after, or Iran, he said, he would let them know.Skip to next paragraph
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Emirates Flight EK912 was packed. He traveled on a coach ticket he had bought online the day before, and without his usual two bodyguards, who were unable to book seats on the same flight. During the nearly three-hour flight, he was served lunch (chicken breast or lamb brochette, sir?) and jotted some notes in a spiral notebook.
Using a fake name and passport of Mahmoud Abdul Raouf Mohammed – he had five such aliases – the man landed at Terminal 3 of Dubai’s international airport at 3:15 p.m., sailed through immigration, wheeled his black carry-on over to a waiting Toyota Land Cruiser at the taxi rank, and hopped in for a quick, five-minute drive.
At 3:48 p.m. on Jan. 19, he walked into the lobby of the Al Bustan Rotana hotel. Less than five hours later, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, cofounder of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the paramilitary wing of Hamas – would be dead.
As the liaison between Hamas and Iran for weapons-smuggling operations into Gaza, Mr. Mabhouh had a lot of enemies: He was wanted in Israel for the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two soldiers; he was loathed by members of Hamas’s rival Palestinian faction, Fatah; and Jordanian intelligence was looking for him. Egypt, where he spent all of 2003 in jail, also wanted him. The man had survived several assassination attempts.
But while many might have wished him dead, Dubai police say the evidence points to Israel as being behind his murder.
A modern Casablanca
As details of this killing have been carefully assembled by the Dubai police force, the case has triggered global curiosity and incredulity. It has pulled the curtain back on what is widely assumed to be Israeli spycraft, leaving the heralded Mossad spies looking more like Maxwell Smart than sophisticated players in a John le Carré novel. Does it really take 27 agents in cheap wigs and fake beards to kill one Hamas smuggler?
The episode has also re-ignited debate over the morality of targeted assassinations. And it has revealed Dubai as a kind of modern Casablanca, a Middle Eastern crossroads of arms dealers, espionage, oil money, and a much underestimated Dubai police force.