By Kim Sengupta, Ben Lynfield and Donald Macintyre
– 18 February 2010
The international furore over the assassination of a senior Hamas official sharply escalated yesterday with claims that he had been lured to Dubai by the Israeli intelligence services.
Security sources say that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had changed his travel plans, leaving behind his bodyguards, for a “meeting” which may have been organised by Mossad, who had been tracking him for days before his death.
The killers' use of European passports has led to widespread calls for investigation, and the repercussions for Israel over its alleged involvement in the murder began yesterday, with Gordon Brown announcing an inquiry to be held by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).
In a sign of the increasing pressure on the Israeli authorities, the country's ambassador to the UK will appear at the Foreign Office today to face questions over how the passports of six Britons living in Israel was used by a team of killers to travel to Dubai.
It is believed that British investigators will be flying to Dubai in the next 24 hours to co-ordinate with the UAE authorities. No decision has been made, however, on whether they will be going to Israel and no approach had been made so far to Israel. Neither the French nor the German government has indicated whether it will launch similar inquiries.
It also emerged yesterday that up to 18 people were involved in the murder of Mr Mabhouh, who was said to have been tortured before being suffocated.
The Israeli government meanwhile broke its silence over the assassination to insist that there was no reason to assume that Mossad was responsible for the death. Its Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman did not actually deny Israeli involvement but said: “There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief.”