Dubai police said Tuesday it is questioning two Palestinians suspected of involvement in the murder of a top Hamas leader, after having named an 11-member hit team travelling on European passports.
The two men, both residents of the United Arab Emirates, had "fled to Jordan" after Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in a Dubai hotel room on Jan. 20, police chief Dahi Khalfan told AFP.
He said they were extradited from Jordan "three days ago," pointing to a "strong suspicion" against one of the two who had met a member of the suspected hit team before the assassination.
Dubai authorities said they would seek assistance from the global police coordination agency Interpol and press individual nations to hunt down the suspects.
Khalfan announced on Monday that police were hunting six British passport holders, three with Irish passports, including a woman, and the holders of a German and a French passport, all of whom had managed to leave the UAE.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has accused Israel of killing Mabhouh, 50, and vowed revenge.
Khalfan did not directly implicate Israel at Monday's news conference on Mabhouh's death. But he noted the possibility that "leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill" Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing.
Khalfan's account portrayed the suspects as operating with chilling efficiency, arriving in Dubai at different times, checking into different hotels and tailing Mabhouh from the moment of his arrival in Dubai to when he entered his hotel room. Some of the suspects even rode in the same elevator as Mabhouh to verify his room number and later booked a room across the hall, Khalfan said.
They paid for all expenses in cash and used different cell phone cards to avoid being traced, Khalfan said.
In the surveillance footage, the female suspect appears to be wearing a wig and at times a big hat and sunglasses to blend in as a tourist. Others also were seen disguised as vacationers, wearing baseball caps or tennis outfits and carrying rackets. Khalfan also said some suspects donned fake beards.
He said forensic tests indicated Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses were still under way to pinpoint other possible factors in his death. Hamas initially claimed Mabhouh was poisoned and electrocuted, but later a Hamas leader, Mohammed Nazzal, denied that poison was used.
The killing itself took just 10 minutes, Khalfan said.
Four assassins later entered his room while he was out, using an electronic device to open the door, and waited for Mabhouh to return.
Khalfan said they were careful not to disturb anything in the room and left the door locked from the inside to try to hide the fact that they had broken in.
The team then headed for the airport, some of them flying to Europe and others to Asia, he said. All were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals.
A Hamas statement last month acknowledged Mabhouh was involved in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and said he was still playing a "continuous role in supporting his brothers in the resistance inside the occupied homeland" at the time of his death.
Israeli officials have accused Mabhouh of helping smuggle rockets into the Gaza Strip, the coastal territory ruled by the armed group.
Top Hamas figures have denied reports that Mabhouh was en route to Iran, a major Hamas backer. But the group has not given clear reasons for his presence in Dubai.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said the British passports used by six members of an the hit team are believed to be fake.
"We are aware that the holders of six British passports have been named in this case. We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation," said a spokesman.
"We have informed the authorities in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) that this is the case, and continue to cooperate closely with the Emiratis on this matter," he added, referring to the killing of Mahmud al-Mabhuh last month.
And, a man in Israel with the same name as an alleged member of the hit squad said on Tuesday he was "angry, upset and scared" over what he called a misidentification.
Dubai police listed "Melvyn Adam Mildiner", a British national, as one of 11 Europeans suspected of killing Mabhouh.
Speaking in British-accented English, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, resident of a town near Jerusalem, told Reuters he had nothing to do with the assassination and had never been to Dubai.
"I woke up this morning to a world of fun," he said in a sarcastic tone, after Israeli newspapers splashed names and photos of the suspects distributed by Dubai.
A photo of "Melvyn Adam Mildiner" released by police in Dubai did not match a picture of the Israel-based Mildiner on his Twitter social networking page, though it had some similar features.
"It's not me. Which is one silver lining on this entire story because at least I can point to it and say, 'Look, that's not me. It's not the picture that I have in my passport, and it's not the picture that I have on my face that I walk around with every day', Mildiner said.
I have my passport. It is in my house, along with the passports of everybody else in my family, and there's no Dubai stamps in it because I've never been to Dubai," he said.
Acknowledging that his name was uncommon, Mildiner said: "There's probably not many of us."