| 2.6°C Dublin

Mystery of 'Irish' trio accused of being part of Israeli hit squad

Authorities here are investigating whether these alleged Irish nationals were part of a professional hit squad that killed a military commander in Dubai.

Police in the United Arab Emirates have named the two Irish men and one woman as being among an 11-strong murder gang that stalked and killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on January 19.

The senior Hamas commander was found suffocated in a luxury hotel room, sparking outrage as Palestine accused Israel's Mossad secret service of carrying out the attack. It has pledged to strike back.

Yesterday, Dubai's police chief Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said the hit squad comprised of six British passport-holders, three Irish and one each from France and Germany.

Interpol is co-ordinating an international investigation as Dubai authorities believe the team of assassins spent less than 24 hours in Dubai before fleeing to European countries.

They allegedly used cash and left no paper trail.

But police have now provided names and photographs of the suspects, along with a detailed account of how they tracked the Hamas official to the Al Bustan Rotana hotel, near the international airport.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked to assess the status of the alleged Irish nationals, who were named as Gail Folliard, Evan Denning and Kevin Daveron.

Gail Folliard is believed to be the only woman accused in the high-profile murder case.

"Our embassy in Abu Dhabi is in touch with the Emirates authorities on a daily basis but we have received no official confirmation that any Irish nationals were involved," a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

At the press conference yesterday police played CCTV footage of the alleged hit squad arriving in Dubai, the day before Mabhouh was found dead.

It showed that they disguised themselves with wigs and fake beards.

Officials said: "We have no doubts that it was 11 people holding these passports, and we regret that they used the travel documents of friendly countries."

A French man, named as Peter Elvinger, is suspected of being the leader of the hit squad, organising the logistics, including booking the team into a room down the hall from their target.

Several of the group had followed Mabhouh, even riding in the same lift to determine his room number, before checking into a room across the hallway.

Four suspects then used an electronic device to enter the 49-year-old's empty room, and waited for him to return.

All 11 left the United Arab Emirates immediately after the killing on separate airlines.

Police say that two other suspects in the case -- both from Palestine -- were arrested in Jordan and extradited to Dubai, where they are now in custody.

Mabhouh had engineered the capture of two Israeli soldiers during the Palestinian uprising in the 1980s. The soldiers were later killed.

Israel has so far declined to comment on alleged involvement in the plot.