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Hamas Hit Squad Includes 15 New Suspects

BRIAN MURPHY   02/24/10 03:57 PM ET   AP

Mahmoud Almabhouh

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — At least 15 more suspects carrying foreign passports were linked Wednesday to an elaborate hit squad slaying of a Hamas commander that Dubai's police chief claims was likely carried out by Israel's Mossad secret service.

The latest accusations by Dubai police raised the size of the alleged assassination team to at least 26 and further expanded the investigation's international web – now stretching from a bank in America's heartland to European capitals and Australia.

The police statement also left open the possibility the probe could widen and investigators were "not ruling out the possibility" of more allegations.

Some of the new suspects – 10 men and five women traveling on British, French, Irish and Australian passports – were allegedly part of "logistical support" teams that staked out Dubai for months before the Jan. 19 slaying of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founder's of Hamas' military wing.

Although Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has said he was nearly "100 percent" certain that Mossad masterminded the killing, the new details add at least one incongruous wrinkle. Two of the suspects allegedly left Dubai on a ship bound for Iran – Israel's archenemy – after an alleged reconnaissance trip in August.

The police statement comes less than two weeks after Dubai authorities identified 11 suspects accused of using fraudulent European passports during a 19-hour operation to tail and kill al-Mabhouh in his luxury hotel room near Dubai's airport.

The mission was described by Dubai authorities as a mix of clockwork precision and spy novel touches, such as fake beards, wigs and tourist garb such as tennis outfits and rackets.

At least seven of the earlier suspects share names with people living in Israel, reinforcing widespread suspicion about Mossad involvement and bringing sharp complaints from European ambassadors about how the expertly altered passports were obtained.

Philip Carr, a 36-year-old technician living in Israel, said he was recovering from sinusitis when he heard that his name and British passport name appeared on the new list of suspects.

"I've been in bed for two days with a splitting headache and a temperature. And then I get a phone call that I am on an international watch list. Fantastic, huh?" Carr told The Associated Press on the phone from his home in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

"That picture is certainly not me. He's wearing glasses. I've got 20-20 vision," said Carr, who immigrated to Israel eight years ago.

In addition to the names, Dubai police also released a detailed flow chart-style diagram on the suspect's roles and clips of video surveillance. They also distributed a map showing the numbers of 17 credit cards allegedly obtained by the suspects from financial institutions in Germany, Britain and the U.S. state of Iowa.

Dubai police say the latest suspects traveled on a mix of passports that do not need prior visas for the United Arab Emirates or go through eye scans and other biometrics data required from many nationalities.

They included six with British passports and three each from Ireland, France and Australia, the police statement said.

It brings the total number of suspects using foreign passports to 12 British, six Irish, four French, three Australian and one German. Two other Palestinians also have been detained.

Last week, Dubai's police chief Tamim was quoted as saying he was "99 percent, if not 100 percent" certain the Mossad was behind the slaying of al-Mabhouh. Hamas also has blamed Israel and has vowed revenge.

Israeli officials have a policy of not commenting on allegations about any activities of its spy agency.

Dubai police claim the hit team used credit cards obtained with the fake passports to pay for plane tickets and Dubai hotels, including preliminary scouting missions as early as March 2009.

The credit card companies and lenders involved either declined comment or said they would look into the police allegations.

The 10-minute compilation of video surveillance provided by police shows several suspects arriving at Dubai International airport.

In other segments, a man and a woman are seen entering a hotel lobby and exiting an elevator, looking like a young couple on a holiday. Another couple, dressed in formal clothes, is seen walking through a hotel lobby.

Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that six additional suspects Dubai police allege were involved in the slaying carried British passports.

"We will seek to make contact with these individuals and offer consular assistance" a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

"The foreign secretary and others have made clear we expect full Israeli co-operation," the spokeswoman added. Britain had previously said that eight forged British passports had been used in the killing.

The new suspects were identified as: Ivy Brinton, Anna Shauna Clasby and Chester Halvey, on Irish passports; David Bernard LaPierre, Melenie Heard and Eric Rassineux, on French passports; and Joshua Daniel Bruce, Nicole Sandra Mccabe and Adam Korman on Australian passports. Spellings match photos of the passports that appeard on newspaper Web sites.

British officials offered slightly different spellings for the names of those alleged of traveling with British passports: Gabriella Barney, Philip Carr, Mark Sklar, Stephen Keith Drake, Daniel Schnur, Roy Cannon.

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Associated Press Writers Barbara Surk and Adam Schreck in Dubai, Jill Lawless in London and Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Filed by Jeff Muskus  |