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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.

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In addition, there were two Palestinian suspects. They were already under arrest on charges of being accomplices to the murder – helping with renting cars and hotel rooms. The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported that both men worked for a real estate firm belonging to Mohammed Dahlan, a senior official in Hamas’s rival movement, Fatah.

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Throughout the operation, Tamim said, none of the suspects made a direct call to any other suspect. But his police had traced a high volume of calls and text messages between three phones carried by the assassins and four numbers in Austria. Also uncovered were 17 credit cards allegedly obtained from financial institutions in Germany, Britain, and the United States.

The story by now was getting so complicated that the police released a detailed flowchart on the suspects’ alleged movements, and released the numbers of the credit cards.

Stolen identities

The suspects, or rather some of the people with the names of the suspects, woke up the next morning with reporters camped out on their doorsteps, and Interpol started circulating “red notice” warrants worldwide with the request to arrest them.

At least 10 of the stolen identities came from Israelis with dual citizenship.

One of the men, named Roy Allan Cannon, moved to Israel in 1983 from Britain, and lives, together with his six children, in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood outside Tel Aviv. He is retired and has not left the country in more than six years.

Another, James Leonard Clarke, is also an immigrant from Britain. He married an Israeli woman, served in the Israeli army, and has never been to Dubai.

Nicole Sandra Mccabe, an Australian-Israeli, is reportedly nine months pregnant.

On the night of Jan. 19, these people and some 20 others named in the Mahbouh case were home. All say they had their passports with them. But passports with their names were in Dubai, and the photographs and the signatures had been changed.

'648 hours of video'

What were the people calling themselves Roy or James or Nicole doing that day and night, exactly? Much of this, says chief Tamim proudly, has been filmed on Dubai’s extensive network of CCTV cameras. Tamim boasted to reporters that the Dubai police had “648 hours of video” on the suspects. He added that their disguises – beards, floppy hats, sunglasses, wigs – were “naive” and “archaic.”

The police footage of the assassination starts at Dubai’s Terminal 3, where members of the alleged hit team were waiting for Mabhouh. Most had arrived before him, flying in from Paris; Frankfurt; Rome; and Zurich, Switzerland. Team members are never far away from their target, orbiting around him but never staying for too long.

Mabhouh took no notice of the two men who joined him in the elevator on his way up to his second-floor room that fateful day – but the CCTV camera did. One was short and portly with a moustache. Another, a tall man, kept looking at himself in the elevator’s full-length mirrors. Dressed in athletic wear and carrying tennis rackets, the two looked like any other European tourists visiting the Gulf state for some winter sun.