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UK police meet passport victims

Investigators arrive in Israel as Dubai authorities find DNA at murder scene

Investigators from Britain's Serious Organised Crimes Agency (Soca) have arrived in Israel to start interviews with dual nationals whose names were used on fraudulent passports used by the assassins of a Hamas commander last month.

Soca confirmed yesterday that arrangements were already being made to speak to the six British-Israeli dual nationals whose names appeared on the 11 passports originally revealed by Dubai police last week to have been used by members of the hit squad. Meanwhile, police in Dubai said that they had moved a step closer to identifying the murder suspects by finding DNA and fingerprints at the scene of the crime.

The planned interviews are part of the investigation into the use of the falsified passports ordered by Gordon Brown after the revelation of their use in the operation to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room.

Dubai's police chief, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has said he is "99 per cent sure" that Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad was responsible for the assassination. And yesterday he told the Al-Arabiya news network that new evidence had emerged in the hotel where Mr Mabhouh died. "We've (identified) traces of DNA on the scene, belonging to the criminals," he said. "We have fingerprints and DNA traces."

Israel, whose ambassador in London Ron Prosor was called into the Foreign Office after the original disclosures, has refused to confirm or deny any involvement.

Soca said yesterday it was "arranging to speak to six passport holders as possible witnesses to a crime". It said interviews would take place in the British Embassy in Tel Aviv and added: "The Israeli authorities have been informed." A spokesman for the British Embassy said an investigator from the British agency had arrived in Israel but indicated that interviews had not yet begun.

Soca enquiries are likely to include interviews with another six British passport holders whose names were among those used by a further 15 suspects in the assassination revealed by Dubai police this week. The agency said it was "working closely with the Emirates". This week's announcement brought to 26 the total of suspects being sought by the Dubai authorities for the killing.

Lt Gen Tamin was also quoted as saying that he expected details of the 15 new passports identified in the case to be circulated by Interpol as the 11 others already have been. He told the United Arab Emirates-based newspaper al-Bayan that he was working with European countries, Australia and the US through diplomatic channels to establish an international detection team "from at least seven countries". He added: "Friendly nations who have been assisting in this investigation have indicated to the police in Dubai that the passports were issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner."