World Digest: Dubai challenged on its account of Hamas figure's death

Wednesday, February 17, 2010; A06

United Arab Emirates

Dubai's account of slaying is challenged

A spy novel-worthy police narrative about the slaying of a Hamas commander brought uneasy questions for Dubai authorities Tuesday as their account of a crack hit squad from Europe ran into serious challenges from Britain, Ireland and Germany.

At least four people who live in Israel share names with suspects identified by Dubai police investigating the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Three of the four said they were not the people whose photos were made public by Dubai; a daughter of the fourth said the allegations were a mistake.

Even so, the purported link to Israel was likely to encourage the Palestinian Hamas movement and others to press their claims that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was behind the slaying.

Another twist added to the intrigue. Officials outside Dubai said at least two Palestinians linked to the case were in Dubai custody, leaving Hamas and its Western-backed Palestinian rivals trading bitter accusations.

Dubai authorities described an 11-member team that swooped into the Persian Gulf city-state last month on a mission to kill Mabhouh and then fanned out with clockwork precision to Europe, Asia and South Africa in less than 24 hours.

Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim ran through the details at a news conference Monday, describing suspects who donned fake beards or wigs and shadowed Mabhouh so closely they rode in the same elevator with him at a luxury hotel.

But the account quickly came under dispute. And other elements added to the scrutiny on Dubai, including how investigators pieced together the evidence or why such a well-planned operation would overlook Dubai's wide-ranging security cameras.

It all adds up to something far less definitive than Tamim's presentation, which included video surveillance clips of both the alleged killers and Mabhouh.

-- Associated Press


Prime minister's political woes deepen

A high-profile corruption scandal involving Silvio Berlusconi's inner circle is denting the Italian prime minister's hopes of a sweeping victory in regional elections next month that are seen as a national test of his popularity.

For the past week, magistrates probing lucrative public work contracts have closed in on Guido Bertolaso, the head of the civil protection department and Berlusconi's right-hand man in dealing with natural disasters. Berlusconi, himself on trial on corruption and tax fraud charges, has dismissed the probe as politically motivated. Bertolaso is widely seen as a national hero for his response to last year's deadly earthquake in L'Aquila.

-- Associated Press

Vatican to release files on wartime actions: The Vatican plans to make some of its World War II archives available on the Internet soon to calm down the controversy over Pope Pius XII's actions during the Holocaust. Those who contend that Pius should have done more to head off the Nazis' efforts to exterminate European Jews were angered by Pope Benedict XVI's recent decision to move Pius closer to sainthood.

Obama to send ambassador to Syria: President Obama said he would nominate career diplomat Robert Ford to become the United States' first ambassador to Damascus since 2005, a sign that U.S.-Syrian relations are thawing as Obama enters his second year in power. Washington withdrew its last ambassador after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which many blamed on Syria. Syria has denied involvement.

-- From news services

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