More passports linked to killing

 

The United Arab Emirates has identified a further two Irish passport numbers allegedly used by suspects in the assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai last month, according to a report.

If confirmed, this brings to seven the number of fake Irish passports, containing numbers that correspond with those of legitimate Irish passports, apparently used in the operation.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said they were aware of the report but could not confirm its veracity. She said the department was endeavouring to gather information from the UAE authorities, and through European Union channels.

According to a source close the investigation, the UAE has identified four more suspects, carrying Irish and British passports, in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

"The UAE has identified two British suspects holding British travel documents, and as part of the ongoing investigation has shared the information with the British government," the source told the Reuters news agency today.

Two more suspects holding Irish passports were also identified, the source added.

The Dubai authorities have released the identities of 11 people who travelled on forged Irish, British, French and German passports to kill Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in January.

Fine Gael has called on Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin to brief the Dáil on the details of the case.

The party’s foreign affairs spokesman, Billy Timmins, said: “The Minister for Foreign Affairs must start getting explanations as to how suspects in an assassination overseas were able to use valid Irish passport numbers on fake passports and provide a bona fide Dublin address when checking out of a hotel.”

He added: “The Irish passport has great standing internationally and the minister must do all he can to ensure its status is not debased.

Speaking in the European Parliament, Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa called on the Government to press the EU to put on hold current proposals to upgrade relations with Israel.

Mr De Rossa said: “The stealing of Irish citizens’ identities and the abuse of Irish passports by another state is a gross infringement of Irish sovereignty.

“It is not the normal practice for friendly states to abuse each others sovereignty in this way. One can only assume that Israel either has no regard for international law or holds Ireland and the other EU states affected in contempt,” he added.

EU ministers yesterday condemned the “fraudulent” use of Irish and other EU passports by the alleged killers as Israel’s foreign minister claimed no knowledge of the affair.

The joint EU statement, which called on all countries to co-operate with an investigation by the Dubai authorities, made no reference to Israel.

At meeting in Brussels with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Mr Martin criticised the “abuse” of Irish citizens’ passports.

The Minister said Mr Lieberman, who also serves as deputy prime minister, had “no information whatsoever” about the situation.

Dr David Lanby, chairman of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “The Israeli denial of involvement in the Dubai assassination has been wholly unconvincing and more a case of ‘if you can’t prove it, then we won’t admit it’.

However, Israeli parliamentary opposition leader Tzipi Livni today praised the assassination of al-Mabhouh as good news for those fighting terrorism.

Additional reporting by Reuters