Dubai police: Hamas agent was drugged, suffocated

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The assassins of a senior Hamas operative used a powerful muscle relaxant to incapacitate him before suffocating him with a pillow in his hotel room, Dubai police said Sunday, in the latest revelations from the slaying local authorities have blamed on Israel.

Police said forensic tests turned up traces of the drug succinylcholine — part of a chemical cocktail used in lethal injections in the United States — in the bloodstream of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was found in his room at a luxury hotel in Dubai on Jan. 20.

Dubai authorities have blamed Israel's Mossad intelligence agency for the slaying in a case that has spread far beyond the Gulf city-state's shores. The investigation's international web now stretches from a bank in the U.S. heartland to European capitals and as far as Australia.

In a statement released Sunday, Dubai's deputy police chief, Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina, said Mabhouh's killers sedated the Hamas commander before suffocating him to mask their crime.

"The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural as there were no signs of resistance shown by the victim," Mazeina said in the statement.

Local media quoted Mazeina as saying Sunday's forensic report confirms Mabhouh died of suffocation "using a pillow."

The drug found in Mabhouh's bloodstream — succinylcholine — is frequently used by doctors to administer a breathing tube or anesthesia.

Investigators sometimes refer to the drug as an ideal murder weapon because it can often be difficult to trace. It is normally injected into the body, usually directly into a muscle.

In the case of Mabhouh, Dubai police said the assassins stuck a syringe into his thigh to administer the drug, Emirates' state-run news agency WAM reported.

Dubai police also said a third Palestinian suspect was in custody. The authorities have identified at least 26 other suspects to the alleged hit squad that traveled to Dubai on fake identities and forged European and Australian passports to kill Mabhouh.

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No one is 'untouchable'

An Israeli Cabinet minister says the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai last month shows any member of the militant Islamic group can be targeted. Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio Sunday that he had no idea who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. But he said the slaying shows Hamas that "none of their people are untouchable." Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, said the killing would deter other Islamic militant groups.

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An Israeli Cabinet minister says the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai last month shows any member of the militant Islamic group can be targeted. Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio Sunday that he had no idea who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. But he said the slaying shows Hamas that "none of their people are untouchable." Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, said the killing would deter other Islamic militant groups .

Dubai police: Hamas agent was drugged, suffocated 02/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2010 9:43pm]

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