Monday 21 August 2017

Mossad and al-Qaeda 'both use fake Irish passports'

Micheal Martin to discuss scandal with Israeli minister in Brussels

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin will discuss the fake passport scandal with his Israeli counterpart in Brussels tomorrow as it emerged al-Qaeda terrorists may also use forged Irish travel documents.

Mr Martin will express Irish security concerns when he attends a gathering of European foreign ministers which coincides with a long-planned visit by Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to the EU capital.

Mr Martin said yesterday that the Dubai incident was very serious and had put the security of Irish citizens at risk. According to a senior security source last week, agents from the Israeli secret service Mossad may have deliberately used fake Irish passports in the operation to assassinate Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh because militant Islamists, including al-Qaeda, have also been using fake travel documents from this country.

The source added that Mossad wanted to send a message to militant Islamists that Israel will also use fake documents. They are also prepared to expose the identities of agents to CCTV technology and passport scanners as they hunt down and target terrorists. As a consequence, he said, the team of 19 assassins pictured in Dubai and suspected of murdering al-Mabhouh on January 19 will no longer be of use on foreign missions.

But one member of the team who might be able to travel abroad again is Irish "woman" Gail Folliard, as the Mossad agent may have been a man in drag.

Doubts over the agent's gender were raised as the "woman's" passport photo appears to show she has a large Adam's apple -- and while this is not a definitive indicator of gender, it is generally larger and more prominent on men.

The use of Irish passports by Mossad has highlighted how Ireland's neutrality is regarded by terrorism experts as offering safe cover for militant Islamists such as al-Qaeda. But following the Dubai assassination this may no longer hold and a number of suspected terrorists are currently under surveillance from the Garda Special Branch, working in conjunction with foreign intelligence agencies.

However, in the past, Ireland has been linked to the activities of militant Islamists on numerous occasions.

Abbas Boutrab, the al-Qaeda bomb maker who owned a number of European passports, lived in Dublin for at least three years before he was arrested in Belfast in 2005 and later convicted. A senior figure in al-Qaeda, who is believed to have spent time in Ireland under the alias 'Al Libi', was captured by Allied special forces while crossing the Syrian border into Iraq in 2008. The terrorist, whose whereabouts are unknown, was carrying a fake Irish passport when he was detained, according to security sources.

And the former US special military aide Oliver North, in his autobiography, said that an Israeli military cargo plane was repainted in Aer Lingus livery to smuggle arms into Iran in 1986 when the US was secretly supplying weapons to Iran as part of a deal to release American hostages.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin angrily condemned the use of fake Irish passports, saying this endangered the lives of the three Irish citizens whose identities had been stolen.

While the names on the passports were fake, the code numbers on the passports were real and were scanned and copied without the holders' knowledge or permission.

Last week, Mr Martin "called in" the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony, to meet officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs -- but as Israel never comments on Mossad operations, Mr Evrony was unable to provide any information. After the meeting, a department official said that Mr Evrony "would relay the messages he had received to his authorities".

Mr Evrony was told the Irish Government took grave exception to "the forgery and misuse of Irish passports which could devalue the standing of the passports and potentially put at risk the safety of Irish citizens travelling abroad".

The five Irish passports in Dubai are all pre-2005 documents and appear to have been randomly selected.

Sunday Independent

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