News24

France probes fake passports

2010-03-23 21:01

Paris - France has opened an investigation after four fake French passports were used by suspects involved in the killing of a Hamas commander in Dubai, the Paris prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Dubai police have accused Israel of sending its agents to the Gulf city to carry out the murder on January 19 and are seeking the arrest of 26 suspects from Britain, Ireland, Australia and France.

French authorities opened a preliminary investigation on March 12 to look into allegations of falsifying and making use of fake documents, the prosecutor said in a statement.

Britain on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake British passports in the killing.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has strongly condemned the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, without directly accusing Israel of involvement.

The Israeli ambassador was summoned to the French foreign ministry last month to provide an explanation about the use of the fake French passports.

Mabhouh, a founder of the military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza, was found dead in his room in the Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai airport on January 20.

The Paris prosecutor said preliminary checks had shown that the passports were "either delivered with a false identity or falsified with a photograph that did not correspond to the identity indicated," said the statement.

International police agency Interpol issued arrest notices this month for a further 16 suspects wanted by Dubai in connection with the killing, on top of 11 already issued.

Dubai police have released extensive surveillance camera footage they say shows the team of 27 suspects from the hit squad which they have linked to the Mossad. The Hamas man had been drugged and then suffocated.

Israeli officials have refused to confirm or deny the reports of Mossad involvement.