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More Irish passports may have been used in killing

The murky fake passports controversy took a new twist today after it emerged that more Irish citizens could be caught up in the Dubai assassination scandal.

Irish authorities have been told that at least five citizens' details were used to gain entry to the Arab state to assassinate a senior Hamas official.

However sources in Dubai today revealed that more Irish passports may yet be involved.

Government officials denied however that they had been alerted a full month ago by the Dubai authorities to the involvement of the passports in the Middle Eastern killing on January 20.

The admission comes as Dubai confirmed that five Irish passports - not three as initially thought - were involved, with a chance there may be more.

Meanwhile, Israel's largest daily tabloid newspaper has praised the killing of a top Hamas commander as the elimination of a "cruel enemy" and an "impressive achievement" telling readers not to worry about diplomatic relations with Ireland.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper said the killing was "not an embarrassment" and "as for the unpleasantness with the governments - Britain, Ireland and France - don't worry".

Israel's ambassador to Ireland Dr Zion Evrony was summoned to a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs but said he "knew nothing" about the events in Dubai.

At least four of the fake Irish passports had genuine numbers but fake names, photographs and signatures, it has emerged.

A Dubai ministry spokesman said he was also aware of reports that "Ireland had heard" there may be up to eight other passports in addition to the 11 Irish, British, French and German documents already identified.

"So these (two extra Irish documents) would be part, we are assuming, of the eight others" the ministry spokesman said.

Today the Government faces serious questions over how quickly they handled the affair as Dubai's chief of police Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamin said he contacted consulates and embassies for assistance with his investigation into the killing at the end of January.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman denied that Irish officials had been contacted that early and said the first contact was made two weeks ago.

The first three Irish people whose passport numbers were used by the hit squad have been contacted and said they had not lost their passports or had them stolen. It is understood two of these people were due to fly out of Ireland this weekend and would have found themselves at the centre of an Interpol high security alert.