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French Passports Used by Dubai Hit-Squad Members Were Forged

The government of France says that French passports used by allegedmembers of a hit squad accused of killing a Hamas leader in Dubai wereforged. Emmanuel LeNain, a spokesman for the French Embassy inWashington, told Declassified that his government has determined thatfour French passports, which Dubai investigators say were used bysuspected hit-team members, were counterfeits and not genuine papersobtained from the French government under false pretenses. LeNain saidhe did not know if the numbers or names on the forged passportscorresponded to those of real people whose identities may have beenstolen. He said he had no further comment on what the French governmentmight now to do in response.

Authorities in Dubai say they have identified 26 suspected membersof a hit squad that they say killed Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouhin a Dubai hotel room on Jan. 19. According to Dubai investigators,the suspects who so far have been identified used 12 British passports,six Irish passports, three Australian passports, four French passports,and one German passport. As we reported here,British investigators now believe that all 12 of the passports used bythe suspects were counterfeit, although some of the passports wereissued in the names of Britons who live in Israel and who say theiridentities were stolen. Ireland has said that at least three of the sixpassports used by hit-team suspects were forgeries. Both British andIrish officials say that the passports in question used passportdesigns that predated the introduction of more secure Irish and Britishpassport formats introduced in recent years.

British investigators are reportedlyin Israel to interview six British-Israeli nationals whose identitiesapparently were stolen by suspected hit-squad members. A spokesman forthe Serious Organised Crime Agency, whose officers are conducting theBritish investigation, told the BBC, "We are arranging to speak to thesix genuine passport holders who are resident in Israel as potentialwitnesses to a crime.”

A European government official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that at least one passport used by a suspected hit-team member, the German passport, is believed to have been a genuine document obtained under false pretenses. As we reported investigators believe that last summer an Israeli resident appeared at a government office in Cologne and applied for a German identity card and passport. To support his application, he produced an Israeli passport and family documents indicating that under a post–World War II law, he had a right to regain German citizenship. The German magazine Der Spiegel reported that addresses provided by the applicant to German authorities in both Cologne and Herzliya, Israel, turned out to be investigative dead ends.

Numerous current and former U.S. and European intelligence officials contacted by Declassified say that they find it hard to believe that anyone other than Israel’s legendary intelligence service, Mossad, was responsible for the attack on Mabhouh. According to the latest reports from Dubai, the Hamas leader, who, counterterrorism officials say, served as a facilitator of arms shipments from Iran to Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip, was first injected with a powerful muscle relaxant and then smothered. U.S. officials say they still can find no evidence to substantiate reports from Dubai that when two of the alleged hit-team members left the United Arab Emirates, they headed for the United States.

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