The Irish government has admitted it knew two weeks ago about concerns over ‘fake' Irish passports used in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
But it has denied claims by Dubai's chief of police that Irish officials were first contacted on the issue last month.
Serious questions are now being raised about how quickly the Irish authorities reacted after the alarm was initially raised. The Belfast Telegraph's website reported the story on February 6.
The murky story took a further twist last night when the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that another two Irish passports had been implicated in the operation to kill a top Hamas commander, bringing the total number to five.
Until yesterday officials and gardai had been investigating the use of three Irish passports by a suspected 11-member Israeli hit squad operating in Dubai last month. But the number of suspects is now believed to stand at 18, and five of them are now thought to have travelled on Irish passports containing genuine numbers but with names, photographs and signatures altered.
Yesterday, Israel's ambassador to Ireland Dr Zion Evrony was summoned to a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs, but he said he “knew nothing” about the events in Dubai.
Irish government officials had earlier denied claims by Dubai's chief of police that it was first contacted on the issue last month after Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in his hotel on January 20.
Dubai's chief of police Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim has said he contacted consulates and embassies for assistance with his investigation into the suspects at the end of January.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs denied that Irish officials had been contacted that early. But he said: “When we saw those media reports (on the incident), our embassy in Abu Dhabi made contact with the foreign ministry there.”
Anatomy of a professional hit
The operation to kill Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai took less than 24 hours to conclude.
January 19, 2010
00:09 Alleged hit squad begins to arrive in Dubai. First to arrive are ‘Michael Bodenheimer’ and ‘James Leonard Clarke’.
00:30 Gail Folliard and Kevin Daveron arrive from Paris on an Air France flight. Both are carrying forged passports from Ireland.
00:30 to 02:26 Other members of the team arrive. Each are carrying fake passports. The names and ‘fake’ passport countries are: Melvyn Mildiner, Stephen Hodes, Paul Keeley, Jonathan Graham, James Clarke, and Michael Barney — all Britain. Evan Dennings — Ireland.
02:26 Peter Elvinger arrives. He is using a fake French passport. He meets a member of the team at airport. They check into a variety of hotels using cash.
10:40 to 11:00 Alleged team members meet at shopping centre. They are seen entering separately or in pairs and leaving separately or in different pairs.
15:00 (about) al-Mabhouh arrives in Dubia — he is also using a fake passport. He does not have security with him. He is met by a Palestinian who is a resident of Dubai at the airport. He is allegedly followed by members of the assassination team at the airport.
15:25 Mahmoud al-Mabhouh checks into the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel, room 230. He is apparently followed to his hotel room by two members of the ‘hit squad’.
15:55 Peter Elvinger makes call to book room 237 at Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel. It is directly across the hall from room 230.
16:25 al-Mabhouh stayed in his room for an hour before leaving to meet people who are believed to be Palestinians from Gaza.
16:30 Peter Elvinger checks into room 237. He does not go to the room but allegedly passes the key to Kevin in the lobby.
19:30 Peter Elvinger leaves Dubai Airport.
20:00 Members of assassination team are allegedly seen on video on hallway near 230.
20:24 al-Mabhouh arrives back at his hotel after shopping for shoes.
20:30 al-Mabhouh returns to his room and supposedly is killed, first by being stunned and then strangled to death.
20:47 Hit squad leave hotel.
22:30 Melvyn Mildiner and Stephen Hodes depart to South Africa, Kevin Daveron and Gail Folliard depart to Paris.
23:30 Michael Bodenheimer and Jonathan Graham allegedly depart to Hong Kong.
January 20, 2010
00:30 Evan Dennings allegedly departs to Zurich.