Friday, 19 February 2010

dubai wants mossad boss arrested

Dubai police call on Interpol to help arrest Mossad head

Emirate '99% sure' Israeli spies were behind Mabhouh death
Israeli ambassador told to explain use of fake British passports

Julian Borger and Mark Tran

Thursday 18 February 2010 17.01 GMT

Interpol should help arrest the head of Mossad if Israel's spy agency was responsible for the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai, the emirate's police chief said today.

In comments to be aired on Dubai TV, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim called for Interpol to issue "a red notice against the head of Mossad ... as a killer in case Mossad is proved to be behind the crime, which is likely now".

International pressure intensified against Israel's spy service as official "wanted" notices were released for the suspected team of Israeli secret agents accused of participating in the assassination. The faces of an 11-strong alleged hit squad appeared on the Interpol website this morning, 48 hours after authorities in the United Arab Emirates issued arrest warrants for the killing last month of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Their offences are listed as "crimes against life and health". The group stands accused of entering the emirate state using forged or stolen European identities, murdering the militant in his hotel and then fleeing the country on 19 January. The red wanted notices are not international arrest warrants, but allow details of fugitives to be released worldwide with the request that the wanted person be arrested and extradited.

Tamim said that the Dubai authorities were virtually certain that Mossad was behind the assassination of Mabhouh, as the incident threatened to turn into a diplomatic row between Israel and Britain over the use of false British passports.

"Our investigations reveal that Mossad is involved in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It is 99%, if not 100%, that Mossad is standing behind the murder," Tamim told the National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates.

The Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, was at the Foreign Office this morning for a brief meeting to "share information" about the assassins' use of identities stolen from six British citizens living in Israel, as part of the meticulously orchestrated assassination of Mabhouh at a luxury hotel last month.

"After receiving an invitation last night, I met with Sir Peter Ricketts, deputy-general of the British foreign minister," Prosor said after the meeting. "Despite my willingness to co-operate with his request, I could not shed new light on the said matters."

Britain has stopped short of accusing Israel of involvement, but to signal its displeasure the Foreign Office ignored an Israeli plea to keep the summons secret. "Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now," an official told the Guardian.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, insisted he was determined to "get to the bottom of" how fake British passports were involved in the killing. He said he "hoped and expected" that Tel Aviv would co-operate fully with the investigation into the "outrage".

Gordon Brown launched an investigation yesterday into the use of the fake passports, which will be led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. The British embassy in Tel Aviv is also contacting the British nationals affected in the plot "and stands ready to provide them with the support they need", the Foreign Office said last night.

"The British passport is an important part of being British and we have to make sure everything is done to protect it," Brown told LBC Radio yesterday.

A UAE official said the number of suspects in the assassination had widened to at least 18. The official said the list included 11 people identified this week, two Palestinians in custody and five others. Two women were among the suspects.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz named the two Palestinians as Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. They were arrested in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and extradited to Dubai. Both worked for a property company in Dubai belonging to a senior official of Fatah, the political faction headed by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, the paper reported.

Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said there was no proof that Mossad was involved in Mabhouh's killing in a Dubai hotel last month, but added that Israel had a "policy of ambiguity" on intelligence matters.

There were calls in Israel for an internal government inquiry into whether Mossad was responsible for identity theft from dual nationals, and criticism of its chief, Meir Dagan, for what critics described as a clumsy operation that risked alienating European allies.

"What began as a heart attack turned out to be an assassination, which led to a probe, which turned into the current passport affair," a columnist, Yoav Limor, wrote in Israel Hayom, a pro-government newspaper. "It is doubtful whether this is the end of the affair."

Yesterday more details emerged about the assassination plot:

• The Guardian learned that a key Hamas security official is under arrest in Syria on suspicion of having helped the assassins identify Mabhouh as their target.

• Authorities in Vienna have begun an investigation into whether Austria was used as a logistical hub for the operation. Seven of the mobile phones used by the killers had Austrian sim cards.

• Three of the killers entered Dubai with forged Irish passports that had numbers lifted from legitimate travel documents.

It is not the first British-Israeli row over the misuse of British passports. British officials are particularly angry because the Israeli government pledged that there would be no repeat of an incident in 1987, in which Mossad agents acquired and tampered with British passports.


February 18, 2010

The powerful, shadowy Mossad chief Meir Dagan is a ‘streetfighter’

Meir Dagan, shown wearing his rank and his two citations for  bravery, was appointed as the Director of the Mossad in 2002

Meir Dagan

The brazen assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh has thrown the spotlight on one of Israel’s most powerful but shadowy figures, Meir Dagan, the current Mossad chief, who yesterday faced calls for his resignation.

There is a piece of folklore often repeated about him: when he was appointed in 2002, Ariel Sharon, then the Prime Minister, ordered him to run the Israeli spy agency “with a knife between its teeth”. Eight years on, Mr Dagan appears to have followed his orders to the letter. The killing in Dubai of one of the top men in Hamas is only the most recent in a string of assassinations that have been traced to Mr Dagan.

His popular support in Israel has never been higher, as most Israelis approach the allegations that Mossad is behind the Dubai death with a wink and a smile. While senior officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry fume over the diplomatic mess, caused by the implications of the Dubai assassinations, those who know Mr Dagan say that he is nonplussed by the row. “He is a determined street fighter,” said Amir Oren, a military correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The thickset, soft-spoken Mr Dagan was twice wounded in more than 30 years of service in the Israel Defence Forces, but he avoids walking with a cane. He has served as head of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, and became a close confident of Mr Sharon during their years together in the IDF.

Mr Dagan’s predecessor, British-born Ephraim Halevy, was known for a more conservative approach to the Mossad, Mr Oren said. Mr Halevy focused instead on strengthening Mossad’s relationship with similar agencies in other countries.

“When Dagan took over he said the Mossad had become too risk-averse, and took its sweet time organising itself for operations,” said Mr Oren. “Dagan, meanwhile, is not trying to come across as diplomatically elegant.”

Maintaining good relations with other nations was dropped to the bottom of the list, said “B” a former Mossad agent who worked under Mr Dagan. “Mossad is facing a lot of anger right now over the use of British and European passports. I don’t know if Mossad was actually involved or how they got those passports though I can say that Dagan isn’t the kind of man to care about angering a few people to get the job done.”

“B” said that Mr Dagan had a no-nonsense approach and did not like to be questioned or second-guessed. “He is what you would call a one-man show,” he said.

Talk of Dagan’s unwillingness to share power with others surfaced early in his tenure, when the Jerusalem Post reported that more than 200 Mossad agents had quit their posts over Mr Dagan’s style. In June 2009, when his term as Mossad chief was extended by one year by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, one of his seconds in command promptly quit.

While some Israelis, including Mr Oren, have argued that Mr Dagan should resign his position over the loud public furore surrounding the Dubai assassinations - though Israel has not admitted its involvement in this, or any other mission - most are pleased with Mr Dagan’s tenure.

“Mossad have renewed the aura that the name Mossad used to generate in the region,” Alon Ben David , an Israeli intelligence analyst, told Israeli radio, a statement that was promptly echoed by the presenter.

Mr Dagan’s popularity was first strengthened by the Mossad’s rumoured involvement in the assassination of Hezbollah security chief Imad Mughniyah in February 2008. Talk of other killings of senior Hezbollah and Hamas officials began to spread. An alleged strike by Israeli planes on Syrian targets in September 2007 was also credited to him, part of his focus on nuclear weapons programmes in the Middle East.

Mr Netanyahu’s insistence that Mr Dagan stay on for an additional year was said to stem from his unparalleled knowledge of Iran’s nuclear facilities. While Israel’s military leaders traditionally serve for four years, with a one-year extension, Mr Dagan’s tenure has been extended twice. His budgetary allowance is also one of the largest, said a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee - leading to a near doubling of the Mossad’s Tel Aviv offices since 2002.

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