Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top Hamas Leader Killed Under Mysterious Circumstances..

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in his Dubai hotel room this morning under interesting circumstances.

He was one of the king pins of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing and a key link in smuggling arms from Iran to Hamas.

As Hamas grew closer to Iran in recent years, Mr. Mabhouh came to play a critical liaison role between Hamas militants in Gaza and Iran, including orchestrating weapons deliveries to Gaza-based militants, the official said.

On Jan. 19, Mr. Mabhouh arrived in Dubai and checked into the five-star Bustan Rotana hotel, located near the Dubai airport, according to Hamas officials and local Dubai media.

A spokesman for Hamas in Damascus told the Associated Press that Mr. Mabhouh was laying over in Dubai on his way from Syria to an unspecified third country.

But the following day, he was found dead in his hotel room. Mr. Mabhouh's death became public on Friday, a day after his body was returned to Damascus.

On Saturday, Dubai's police chief, Dhahi Khalfan, told Al Jazeera that he couldn't exclude the possibility that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was behind Mr. Mabhouh's death, which he said occurred by suffocation.

Dubai security officials, meanwhile, told the state news agency that an "experienced criminal gang" with European passports committed the murder, but said the perpetrators had already fled the country.

The Israeli defense official said Mr. Mahbouh's death would deal a serious setback to smuggling efforts by Hamas.

"The fact that this guy is dead, I think it will only make the situation in our area much better," the official said.

"It won't be easy to replace him because these guys live in secret, all their connections are in secret, so you can't just replace him the next day. It can take a few months and sometimes much longer," the official added.

Did the Mossad do it? Hamas thinks they did and it's certainly possible.

However it could very well have been someone else. Cockroaches like al-Mabhouh don't get to where they are without making some enemies, and anyone dealing in smuggling clandestine arms shipments can be a target, particularly given how Hamas makes money from criminal enterprises like counterfeiting, drug smuggling and other nefarious activities. Or it might have been someone simply sending a message to Hamas's Damascus-based leader Khalid Meshaal, who was al-Mabhouh's patron.

Another interesting little detail is that al-Mabhouh's security guards were not present when he was killed...which even brings up the possibility that he was dipping into the till without permission and paid the ultimate penalty.

For their part,the Israeli are following their usual policy in cases like this, either not commenting or outright denying that they were responsible, but leaving things in a gray area that suggest they might have been.

Aside from his role in smuggling arms to Hamas from Iran, al-Mabhouh has planned hundreds of attacks on Israeli civilians and his death is setback to Iran's re-arming Hamas, so I seriously doubt the Israelis are shedding any tears over his well-deserved demise.

If it was a Mossad op, it appears to have gone off pretty well, especially since it was done in an Arab country.

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