“L’Affaire Al-Mabhouh”: An assassination in the desert

There’s something about calling a case “L’Affaire” that lends it an aura of intrigue and mystery. If the last few weeks have been rather dull in international news, this week has been anything but. The Kenyan circus continued with Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, suspending two ministers on suspicions of corruption only for President Kibaki to countermand him and leave Mr. Odinga calling on the mediation of former UN Secretary-General, Koffi Annan. In Washington, President Obama met with Tibetan leader in-exile, the Dalai Lama, as China fumed.

There’s something about calling a case “L’Affaire” that lends it an aura of intrigue and mystery. If the last few weeks have been rather dull in international news, this week has been anything but.

The Kenyan circus continued with Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, suspending two ministers on suspicions of corruption only for President Kibaki to countermand him and leave Mr. Odinga calling on the mediation of former UN Secretary-General, Koffi Annan. In Washington, President Obama met with Tibetan leader in-exile, the Dalai Lama, as China fumed.

In Niger, we were reminded of the bad old days in Africa when coup d’etats were a major method of regime change.

Never mind that the deposed President Mamadou Tandja was going all autocratic on his subjects, giving himself unlimited tenure, dissolving Niger’s parliament and dismissing the Supreme Court.  There has to be another way of getting rid of unpopular leaders, democracy and rule of law did not win this set.

By far, the most fascinating story of the week came from Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Mahmoud Al-Mabouh, one of the founders of  the military wing of Hamas, [..]was found murdered at hotel in Dubai on January 20th. Cause of death? Suffocation and electrocution.

Naturally, the Hamas were quick to claim that it was a hit effected by Israel’s long reaching intelligence organ,  the Mossad. Well, last week their claims were receiving credibility.

The Dubai police issued arrest warrants for 11 European passport holders. As it turned out, the passports were either faked or had been a product of identity theft of actual holders of these passports, 7 of whom were Israelis with dual citizenship.

Later, it was revealed that there were another 6 suspects wanted in Dubai. The British and Irish incensed at the use of their passports for a black operation and summoned Israel’s Ambassadors demanding explanations.

Israelis seemed to be rather sanguine about the demise of Mr. Al-Mabouh judging by the headlines in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, was positively tongue in cheek as he proclaimed, “Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies… There is no reason for Israel to change this policy.”

As the Hamas commander was in Dubai probably on a mission to buy more rockets from Iran, although his past actions alone had already put him on the Mossad’s hit list, it was not easy to see why Israel is the main suspect.

It’s in the questions that the devil arises. Why did he feel comfortable enough to leave his bodyguards back in Syria? How much knowledge did the Mossad have on Mabouh’s movements to be able to mobilize so quickly?

If the Hamas commander was in the market for rockets, why is the Dubai police so coy about his movements in the Emirate? How about the conflicting reports about his own use of an alias despite showing up Dubai on several occasions before using his own name?

What is the involvement of the Palestinians arrested in Jordan on the orders of the Dubai police? Is there credence to be put in speculation of the involvement of rival Palestinian group, Fatah?

It is very likely that the whole story shall never been known not least because the hit team has already disappeared leaving the Dubai Police Chief, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan, to call futilely for the arrest of the Head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan.

The only proof left with his department is some counterfeit passports and a lot of suspicion.

This hit will go down as another Mossad strike on the enemies of its state in an interminable Israel-Palestinian conflict but at the very least it makes for an interesting read. “L’Affaire Al-Mabhouh” should be a good novel title.

okabatende@gmail.com

Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

 

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