Sunday 19 January 2020

New passports for citizens dragged into Dubai hit plot

Ciaran Byrne and Jason O'Brien

THE five Irish people whose passport numbers were used by the alleged killers in a Middle Eastern assassination are to be given new passports.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed yesterday four of five people affected had been contacted, and three of those interviewed had confirmed that they had never travelled to the Middle East.

An Israeli secret service hit squad is widely suspected of being behind the killing of Palestinian Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a luxury Dubai hotel on January 20.

The 11-strong team is believed to have extracted itself from Dubai within five hours of the killing in the city hotel.

But despite intensive police activity by Britain to find out why UK passports were used, the Irish Government has taken a low-key approach to the extensive use of the Irish IDs.

Gardai are not planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates to investigate the use of the fake passports, the DFA told the Irish Independent last night.

The news came as politicians demanded an explanation of events from Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.


The chair of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr Michael Woods, said he would be inviting the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony, to explain his country's role in the affair.

"I believe the ambassador needs to firstly investigate this matter with his government in Tel Aviv in order to establish what facts he can about the incident.

"I feel that it would then be beneficial for him to attend a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, as it would provide an appropriate forum for him to communicate to the members of the committee anything he has subsequently learned about this very grave situation. "

Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins, said the affair was disturbing.

"The minister needs to clarify when the Government was informed and why it appears that they did nothing until this story surfaced in the media," he said.

The international police organisation, Interpol, said on Thursday it had issued 'red notices' for the suspects to help arrest them in any of the 188 countries in which it operates.

The DFA has said that the 'Irish' passports used by five of the members of the suspected hit squad contain genuine numbers but false names, photographs and signatures.

However, the Dubai chief of police has insisted that all the passports used by the suspects were genuine.

"There has been a drip feed of information coming out of Dubai, and it is causing a lot of difficulties for the other countries involved in terms of identities and passports," a source told the Irish Independent.

The DFA has denied claims by Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim that it was first informed of concerns about the use of 'Irish' passports last month, shortly after the assassination.

It says it first became involved on February 4, after reading reports in the media, and that there has been a parallel approach by the department and the gardai to the issue since then. The slaying of Mr al-Mabhouh has widely been blamed on Israel's Mossad spy agency, but it also has sparked bitter recriminations among rival Palestinian factions, which have long competed for influence in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas claimed yesterday that two ex-officers from the rival Fatah organisation were behind the assassination.

Fatah then insinuated Hamas members were the ones who collaborated with the killers.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband pledged last night to work alongside Mr Martin to get answers from Israel over the use of forged passports from both countries.

Irish Independent

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