Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wet Work in Middle East- Mossad? The Mahmoud al-Mabhouh Assassination

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Who of this Who-done-it.

Gabriel Malor over at Ace of Spades Headquarters asked today why he hasn't heard about this story earlier. Well, the reason why it has not been here before today is because I have been working on it-- for the last five days, trying to get the whole story together. This story reads like something from Tom Clancy.

And in the vein of Tom Clancy, I will start with the line from the beginning of the movie Hunt for Red October-

According to repeated statements of the [Israeli] Government...
Nothing of about you are to see [or read]…
…ever happened

It well known that Mossad has a history of participating in assassinations and using forgein passports when they do so. After the brutal murder of the Olympic team in 1972, they took out those responsible. In the 1960's they kidnapped Nazi Adolf Eichmann from Argentina so he could be brought to trial and executed.

In 1997 they attempted to "cap" Kahled Meshaal . The assassination team used Canadian passports. In 2004, New Zealand suspended relations with Israel when two Israeli agents were caught with forged New Zealand passports, and Great Britain formally protested in 1987 and asked for assurances that forged passports from Great Britain would never be used again.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the "now dead" terrorist, was an illegal smuggler of arms for Hamas. He helped found the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades- militant wings of Hamas, and was involved in the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers, Sa'adon and Sasportas, during the first Palestinian intifada in 1989. It is also believed he was involved in smuggling arms from Sudan to Gaza in 2009.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead on January 20, 2010 in his hotel room in Dubai.

I have taken a number of news reports and CCTV footage as relased by the Government of Dubai, sorted it, sifted it and created a timeline of the "alleged" events that occurred prior to al-Mabhouh being assassinated. The names used are those that are reported by the Government of Dubai. ALL passports were found to be forged and therefore the names are likely aliases.

January 19, 2010 (all times are the local time in 24 hour format)

00:09 - Alleged assasination team begins to arrive. First to arrive are "Michael Bodenheimer" on a fake passport from Germany and "James Leonard Clarke" on a forged passport from Great Britain.

00:30 - Gail Folliardand and Kevin Daveron arrive from Paris on Air France flight 526. Both are carrying forged passports from Ireland. The Irish government states that no passport has been issued in either name.

00:30 to 02:26 - Other members of the team arrive. Each are carrying fake passports. The names and "fake" passport countries are: Melvyn Adam Mildiner - Britain, Stephen Daniel Hodes - Britain, Paul John Keeley - Britain, Jonathan Louis Graham - Britain, Evan Dennings - Ireland, James Leonard Clarke - Britain, and Michael Lawrence Barney - Britain. Arrivals are from Munich and Qatar

02:26 - Peter Elvinger arrives. He is using a fake French passport. He was the last of the alleged assassination team to arrive in Dubai. Allegedly, he meets member of team at airport.

During the day each checks into a variety of hotels. They pay cash. They use "international routers" to place calls. According to the Dubai government video, none ever contacted each other by phone, but they all called a number in Austria- supposedly, this is how they relayed information to each other.

10:40 to 11:00 - alleged team members meet at a mall. They are seen entering separately or in pairs and leaving in separately or in different pairs. After this pairs rotated in teams, waiting for Al-Mabhouh’s arrival at Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai airport.

15:00 (about) al-Mabhouh arrives in Dubia-- he is also using a fake passport. He does not have security with him. They could not get tickets on the same flight and he has traveled to Dubai before without security without incident. His security team was to arrive on January 20. 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.

From the Times -

The team is seen "staking out various hotels in the area to determine where he is going to stay.

In CCTV footage of the victim and suspects released by Dubai police, Al-Mabhouh is shown being tracked by his assassins throughout the day of the murder, who donned an array of disguises, including fake beards and wigs.

Surveillance teams rotated in pairs waiting for Al-Mabhouh’s arrival at the luxury Al Bustan Rotana hotel near Dubai 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" wearing sports apparel and carrying tennis racquets-

15:55 - Peter makes call to book room Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel room 237 from another hotel's business center- per the Dubai Government video -- . Room 237 is directly across the hall from room 230. Peter also books his departing flight from Dubai for that night.

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 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 of room 230. There is also allegedly a "write" to the door lock, supposedly indicating a change of key coding or a method of entry to the room. There is supposition that the assassination team waited in the room.

20:24 - al-Mabhouh arrives back at his hotel. According to Dubai police, he has been "shoe shopping"

20:30 - al-Mabhouh returns to his room and supposedly is killed at this time. Reports differ as to the methods, however, most are now saying he was stunned and then strangled to death. Nothing is touched in the room. The hit takes 10 minutes.

20:47- hit squad is out of hotel

22:30 - Melvyn Adam Mildiner and Stephen Daniel Hodes depart to South Africa, Kevin Daveron and Gail Folliard depart to Paris

23:30 - Michael Bodenheimer and Jonathan Louis Graham allegedly depart to Hong Kong

January 20, 2010-

00:30 - Evan Dennings allegedly departs to Zurich

06:30 - Michael Lawrence Barney allegedly departs to Frankfurt

08:30 - James Leonard Clarke allegedly departs to Frankfurt

13:30 Mahmoud al-Mabhouh found dead in Room 230 of the Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel - "latch and chain" on door are in place- in other words, door is locked from the inside.

Janary 28, 2010- The body of al-Mabhouh is sent to Damascus for burial. Word of his death is slow to get out, partly because he used fake information to enter Dubai.

January 29, 2010- The first response from Israel- (IsraelNN.com ) Member of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) reacted Friday to the elmination of senior Hamas terrorist commander Mahmoud Al-Bahouh by saying, "Every murderer should know that the long arm of Israel will get him at any time and any place.
“All the security services make, thank God, great efforts to safeguard the security of the State of Israel,” Interior Minister Eli Yishai told the reporters with a smirk on his face.

Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz added that Mossad chief Meir Dagan was one of the best directors of the espionage agency ever.

“My impression is that the Mossad knows how to get the job done, and it is a known thing that anyone who lifts a hand against a Jew is putting his life on the line,” Herschkowitz said.

They never come out and say, "we did it"- nor do they really say "we did not do it." Although they have plausible deniability.

From the Jerusalem Post-

On Monday night, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, a British Israeli man who made aliya from London nine years ago, went to bed suffering from what he said is pneumonia.

When he woke up the following morning, Mildiner said, he was stunned to discover that one of the members of an alleged hit squad who assassinated senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel last month went under an alias which was identical to his name.

And from The Times-

Mr Mildiner confirmed that the name and number of his passport matched those released by the Dubai authorities. But he said he had no idea how his details had been stolen as his passport, issued in Britain in 2001, had never been lost or missing. “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.

The photo released in Dubai also does not match his passport picture or photographs posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. “It’s not me,” he said. “Which is one silver lining on this entire story because at least I can point to it and say, ’Look, that’s not me.” Colleagues of Susan Hodes, the mother of Stephen Daniel Hodes, said she had been thrown into panic by the apparent theft of her son’s name.

At her workplace Urban & Rural Estates, in Manchester, a colleague said: “It’s not her son. She has got a child called Stephen Daniel Hodes and she is in a complete tizz. Thankfully there was the picture which is not her son. Whether someone has stolen identity or whether there are two Stephen Daniel Hodes I don’t know. She called in the office in a complete panic. It’s just very uncomfortable for her.”

France and Germany both said they were unable to verify the identities of the passport holders named in Dubai. “We are still checking,” a French foreign ministry spokesperson said. “But it would not be surprising if the identity was false.”

Ireland said the three Irish passports appeared to be forgeries rather than stolen identities. “We have run the passport numbers and names through our system and there are no passports in those names or with those numbers,” said an Irish foreign affairs department spokesman. “These purported passports are false.”

According to the Haaretz this whole scenario is similar to the novel "Duet in Beruit"- which is similar to or based on a failed 1997 attempt to assassinate Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal in Jordan. Mishka Ben-David wrote in detail about Mossad methods in the novel.

Was it Mossad? I have no idea. It was profesional. It feels like Mossad. If it was not, it serves Israel's purposes to have terrorist think it was... if it was, same thing. A terrorist is dead. So, give the guys who did it... whoever they are... a medal. 

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Who of this Who-done-it.

CCTV Video from the Dubai Government (which all could be fake for all I know)--
Video part 1-
Video part 2-
Video part 3-


  1. Nicely done! Good work. Entertaining.
    Thank's for your efforts.

  2. Nice piece of journalism. If it was Mossad, then good on them. There should be an open terrorist watchlist. Every bomb maker ans assin should get a number. We start at the top and erase the numbers one by one. Eventually... no more problem.

  3. Good job. It is nice to be able to see everything in chronological order. Good read.

  4. Of course, now the bad thing is that their faces are now known. That said, they were probably known before, but now, certainly moreso.

  5. Nice work! Excellent work, in fact.

    One point to quibble -- spelling -- it should read "And in the vein of Tom Clancy" ... 'vein', not "vain".
    Extremely minor point.

    Thanks for the hard work in pulling this together.

  6. Re: the supposed passport photos of the alleged Mossad hit-squad.

    I read that most of the "team" were travelling on either "fake" British or Irish (EU) passports. And I've seen three of the alleged actual passport photographs. The female, and two guys wearing glasses.

    Having recently renewed my British passport, I can assure you these photos would have been rejected by the passport issuing office.

    Obviously that doesn't matter in that sense, as they were not "issued" by the authorities.

    However none of these photos would have passed muster at any European Union airport check-in gate.

    The female is not full-face on, which is a mandatory. And all three show way too much neck, and not enough face. In addition, the glasses show flash-flare. Again, this would be a rejection for any kosher British (EU) passport.

    Wouldn't Mossad have a better handle on faked passports?

  7. To Anonymous- (on spelling of vein/vain)-

    Youre' right... thanks... and THANKS for all the complements

  8. Jack-

    Point well made on the passport pictures-- but like forging new $100's vs old $100's- I am wondering if they may have forged "older" style, but still valid, passports

  9. Their security was very tight, they never communicated with each other directly, diff hotels, what was the link that broke the case, inside info?
    How did they burn the whole team?

    Gerald Anthro

  10. You could be right there Matt. I just checked my previous 10 year passport issued 1995.

    I am showing a lot more neck than now! However the full face to camera is till mandatory.

    I just though for pp photos they looked odd, especially as the men are wearing fairly modern glasses.

  11. Jack- You made me think about this... and there are some other things that I am looking into--

    Today, I am concentrating on how do you beat the cameras and plausible deniability.


  12. Gerald-
    I am wondering that myself--

    And wondering how the door was locked from the inside...

    Stay tuned...

  13. So it was or wasn't Mossad-- guess it doesn't matter either way- if your a terrorist, well, they will "reach out" to you

  14. How did they burn the whole team?

    My guess? They started with video from the crime scene and began identifying frequently appearing faces. Then they used facial recognition software to track their movements all the way back to point of entry. Then they took the available footage, weeded out false IDs then pieced together a timeline. fast work, even with computers (and also rather terrifying from a liberty perspective.)

    Note that some of the alleged perps were never identified, nor their means of entry or exit shown.

    What i find interesting is it appears the teams knew they were going to be on camera - even to the point of knowing where the cameras were. Some didn't seem to care too much - the advance men who departed early and those using disguises. While others - the late observation team, and the hit squads all wore hats and were pretty cagey with about keeping their faces away from the cameras.

    It also appeared that at egress at least one of the hit men was still wearing a rubber glove. And if you watch the others see how they avoid touching anything within camera that could provide a reliable fingerprint. Whatever they touched either left with them, or was so heavily used (e.g. the elevator call button) as to be useless for forensics.

    My WAG? The Israelis are not worried about more heat for the false passports because they have already identified the source of al Mabhouth's false passport, and it is a not a fake, but instead a real official gulf State passport issued in a false name.

  15. I have to admit to being somewhat suspicious of aspects of this. This story hinges on a very comprehensive briefing of this team in action. We are down to details on the team, arrival times from destinations. Outbound call details, hotels stayed at. Passports from multiple source countries. The list goes on. Have you ever seen a story so well briefed in such a short space of time. This information doesn't just fall from the sky. You need a significant team to piece such diverse strands together.

    With all due respect, I'm pretty sure the Dubai authorities aren't able to access resources on the scale of the CIA

    Apparently the target was in the country under an assumed identity. Is this to suggest that they didn't know precisely who was in their country?

    For me this then raises the question of were the Dubai authorities aware of who this man was and if so were they watching him?

    If they aren't aware they just find a dead body, surely this is just a murder investigation which they threw a huge amount of resources at which in itself raises questions.

    Did they therefore know exactly who this was and why he was in the country?

    So did they turn a blind eye to his activity (whatever that might have been)or were they watching more closely and if so how did they not close on this team?

    Maybe more than Mossad achieved something from this.

  16. Maybe it wasn't Mossad.
    Some used Israeli passports???
    Everyone was tracked really fast.
    Some spoon feeding cops.
    Mossad usually not that sloppy.

    Interpol issued red letters,
    that may Id them.
    ICPO-INTERPOL General Secretariat, (Command & Coordination Center, Tel: +33 472 44 76 76 - Email : ccc@interpol.int


  17. The more I've read into this and seen the videos, the more I'm inclined to think that Mossad did NOT do it. I'll be the first to admit that I am not an expert. From what I've read before about them, I can't imagine them to be this sloppy in a hit and use so many people for one person.

    I also think it's interesting that there has been nothing said about the two Palestinian men that were apprehended regarding the murder. Didn't see them anywhere on the surveilance videos. How were they connected?

    There are so many questions that need to be asked, let alone answered. The way the media, particularly in Britain, have assumed Mossad guilty until proven innocent is disgraceful.

  18. One more detail on Jack Bauer's very precise contribution:
    Here in Australia (I don't know about other countries, though) you are not allowed to smile and show your teeth in a passport photograph.
    Some of the fake passports show a broad smile on some faces of the "team".

  19. I am the anonymous above from Australia.
    I have an idea how to lock the door from "inside".
    I'll try it and if I succeed I'll report back.

  20. jorge...cheers mate.

    The faked outrage in the UK is hilarious. It seems to be led by the Daily Mail: a quasi-conservative paper which has historicaly had a high tolerance for Jew hate.

    Assuming it was Mossad (which I doubt because of the seeming sloppiness in the ID department, though maybe that's a head fake)... what do they expect. Mossad agents turning up with ISRAELI passports?

    DUBAI PASSPORT CONTROL: So Mr Goldberg, what is the purpose of your trip to Dubai?

    GOLDBERG: Oh... shopping, sightseeing, sunbathing by the pool... oh, and assassinate a Hamas terrorist in his hotel.

    DUBAI PASSPORT CONTROL: Oh, okay. Have a nice stay.

  21. Hi there,
    Hi Jack!
    I did it very easily!
    The trick is having a second room beside the room you are in.
    You just lock the door from inside and leave the room through the balcony!
    A piece of cake mate!



  22. So it was or wasn't Mossad-- guess it doesn't matter either way- if your a terrorist, well, they will "reach out" to you


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