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'Recall' over two million passports to find fakes

IRELAND considered recalling two million passports after killers of a Hamas official in Dubai used fake Irish identities.

But the idea, to withdraw passports issued before 2005, was ruled out as impractical.

The news emerged as it was revealed that the total number of Irish passports used by the suspected killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh rose to eight.

Mr al-Mabouh was found dead in his hotel room in January. Dubai authorities have accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of being behind the killing.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman confirmed that the total of counterfeit Irish passports used in the killing was now eight.

"We are still waiting for the report of the official Garda investigation," she said. "Then we will consider our reaction and our next course of action."

A total of 34,622 Irish passports were reported lost or stolen last year and 134 people were detained for trying to travel on Irish passports which had been reported lost or stolen.

Most were people who tried to travel on their own passports after having reported them lost or stolen.

Six of the counterfeit passports used in Dubai had valid Irish passport numbers, while another two contained numbers which had never been issued, according to the head of the passport office.

Joe Nugent, director of Passport Services, said authorities in Ireland, the UK and Australia had considered a recall of passports after counterfeits were used in the killing.

However, this proved "completely impractical" due to the estimated two million passports still in circulation.

He had met all six individuals whose passport numbers were used fraudulently in connection with the Dubai killing and new passports had been issued to them.

The documents used in Dubai related to a particular type of passport document that is no longer produced, Mr Nugent said.

They were old, paper-based documents, nowhere near as sophisticated as the current Irish passport.

At the weekend, Dubai police said they had identified five new suspects in the slaying. The five travelled to Dubai with Australian, British and French passports to kill Mr al-Mabhouh.