Within 48 hours of becoming Foreign Secretary, William Hague faces a political crisis over the Middle East. The emirate of Dubai has named a British citizen as a 19th suspect of the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas official murdered in the emirate four months ago, apparently by a group that included holders of forged British passports. According to a source in the United Arab Emirates, the suspect arrived in Dubai under his own name and carrying a genuine British passport.
The document, the details of which are known by The Independent on Sunday but which we have decided not to publish, shows that he holds a real British passport dated 24 October 2007, valid for 11 years, and was born in 1948. It is believed that his father was a Jewish Palestinian who migrated to the UK just after the Second World War. Dubai police have informed Interpol of the name and passport number of the suspect. The man is believed to be hiding in Western Europe.
According to Dubai sources, the British man was identified parking a rental car close to the hotel where Mr Mabhouh was murdered and can be seen parking his car on a videotape that is in the possession of UEA authorities; a copy of the tape has been given to the British police. According to the UEA, the suspect has recently visited both Canada and France.
Mr Mabhouh was smothered to death in his hotel room and the Emirates have named 33 suspects. Investigations revealed that up to 12 of them had used forged British passports. Other suspects used similar counterfeit or stolen Irish, Australian, French and German passports.
Those involved are widely believed to be members of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. British, Irish and French governments have asked Israeli ambassadors to explain the use of their national passports in the killing.
The involvement of a genuine British suspect will not improve diplomatic relations between London and Tel Aviv. The former foreign secretary David Miliband condemned the counterfeiting of British passports as "intolerable" and demanded reassurances from Israel that it would not be repeated. Britain also ordered an Israeli diplomat to leave the UK in March after an investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency showed that there were "compelling reasons" why Israel was believed to be behind the misuse of the passports. The inquiry determined that the documents were cloned when British citizens passed through airports on their way into Israel, with officials taking them away for "checks" that lasted around 20 minutes. Britain's decision was attacked by angry Israeli MPs who described it as the action of "anti-semitic dogs".
The diplomat asked to leave the UK was understood to be an intelligence officer who was known to the UK authorities and worked as official liaison with Britain's MI6. There was no suggestion the officer was personally involved in the passports affair.
Israel has never admitted any role in February's Dubai assassination of Mr Mabhouh, who was described as a key figure in smuggling Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip on behalf of Hamas. It has abstained from signing any material that might be construed as a confession.
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