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Hamas Leader Killed in Dubai

(With inputs from Wam, agencies) / 30 January 2010

DUBAI — Senior Hamas military commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, who played a pivotal role in the Palestinian uprising in the 1980s, was found murdered in a hotel room in Dubai on January 20, the Dubai Government Media Office said on Friday.

The Dubai Police is pursuing several leads. “Despite the quick skill exhibited by the murderers, they left behind evidence that will help in tracking them down at earliest,” official news agency Wam quoted a security source as saying.

Initial investigations suggest the murder was committed by an experienced criminal gang that had been tracking down his movements from well before his entry into the UAE.

Al Mabhouh, entered the UAE at 3.15pm on January 19, the Media Office said. His body was found the following day in his hotel room in Deira.

A police official told Khaleej Times the 50-year old Hamas commander’s body bore torture marks and his legs were tied with electric wires. It appeared he was smothered to death with a pillow, he said.

The Media Office announcement expressed confidence that the suspects would be tracked down and brought to justice. “The Dubai police no longer believes in ambiguous or unknown crime,” its statement said.

Investigations show the suspects hold European passports. The Dubai police is in touch with the Interpol and says the evidence available will help speedy arrest. The suspects are believed to have left the country before the crime was reported.

Speaking to Reuters in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where Al Mabhouh lived since 1989, Hamas spokesman Izzat Al Rishq confirmed what he called an assassination.

Rishq said Al Mabhouh was an “important” member of Izz Deen Al Qassam brigades, Hamas’ military wing named after a Syrian religious leader who fought British colonial forces in Palestine in the 1930s.

Rishq described Al Mabhouh as an Israeli target since he engineered the capture of Israeli soldiers later killed two decades ago. His funeral took place later on Friday at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk on the edge of Damascus.

“I cannot reveal the circumstances (of the killing). We are working with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates,” said Rishq, a member of Hamas’ politburo.

Al Mabhouh’s death lengthens Hamas’ list of what it describes as “martyrs”, and constitutes another setback for the group, which refuses to abandon its fight against the Jewish state.

Israel has killed dozens of leaders and military figures in Hamas, which was founded two decades ago as a religious resistance movement against Israeli occupation.

He said the brigades “will respond (against Israel) in the appropriate time and place”, but Hamas will not let the killing derail efforts to arrange for a prisoners’ exchange deal between Hamas and Israel that have run into difficulties.

“We still want these efforts to continue. This deal is to the interest of the Palestinian people,” Rishq said.

Another Palestinian source in Damascus said, “Being in Syria, Mabhouh was not directly involved in Hamas’ military operations. He was one of their main military guys, although not a crucial figure.”

Al Mabhouh, who was born in the Gaza Strip, had been living in Syria since 1989. Syria and Iran are the main backers of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Al Mabhouh was imprisoned several times by Israeli forces. Israel razed his home in Gaza, Rishq added. A diplomat in Damascus said it was too early to say if Mabhouh’s past was linked to his death.

“The Israelis have a long memory for sure, but one cannot draw conclusions yet. It might be easier for the Israelis to kill him in Dubai than in Damascus,” a diplomatic source in Damascus said.

The United States, which has started a rapprochement with Damascus, wants Syrian authorities to help neutralise Hamas as an armed Middle East force.

Syria, which is seeking peace with Israel, resisted US pressure several years ago to expel the Hamas leadership.

Hamas also has a presence in Lebanon. A bomb in Beirut killed two of its members in December.

 
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