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DUBAI - The assassins of a senior Hamas militant in Dubai made use of diplomatic passports, the Gulf emirate's police chief said yesterday, as he warned of a mole within the ranks of the Palestinian group.

Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, meanwhile, said the killing was carried out by Israel's spy agency Mossad with the green light and blessing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"There is information that Dubai police will not make public for the moment, especially regarding diplomatic passports" used by some of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's killers to enter Dubai, police chief Dahi Khalfan said in Al-Bayan newspaper.

Mabhouh, a founder of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai on Jan 20.

Last week, Mr Khalfan released the names and photos of 11 murder suspects with European passports - six from Britain, three from Ireland, one from Germany and one from France.

The use of European passports has sparked a diplomatic furore in which Israeli envoys in the four countries have been summoned for talks.

But on Saturday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon insisted there would be no diplomatic crisis with Europe over the use of foreign passports in the Mabhouh murder "as Israel had nothing to do with what happened".

Mr Khalfan, however, has said he is "99, if not 100 per cent" sure that Mossad was behind the assassination, and added on Saturday that Dubai had evidence, including wiretaps, of the agency's role.

The Sunday Times said the killing was personally approved by Mr Netanyahu, citing sources with knowledge of Mossad.

The Premier met members of the hit squad at Mossad headquarters shortly before they travelled to Dubai, according to the Sunday Times, and authorised the mission, which was not seen as complicated or risky.

As quoted on Sunday in another Emirati daily, Al-Ittihad, Mr Khalfan said that Mabhouh's killing was "no longer a local issue, but a security issue for European countries".

Al-Ittihad said Mr Khalfan has called for Hamas to conduct an internal investigation "about the person who leaked information on Mabhuh's movements" and arrival in Dubai to his killers.

The source of the leak was the "real killer," Mr Khalfan was quoted as saying.

Two Palestinians have been arrested in Jordan and extradited to Dubai, where they are being held in connection with Mabhouh's death, according to Mr Khalfan.

Meanwhile, the six British citizens whose identities were stolen and used by the killers all had their passports taken away from them briefly during routine checks at the Tel Aviv airport, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Diplomatic sources said ministers have been briefed that the passport fraud was committed by immigration officials who stopped the British nationals, who all now live in Israel, as they went through the airport during recent trips.

The UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, Mr Anwar Gargash, also yesterday urged European investigators to launch full-scale probes into how the fraudulent passports, that do not require advance UAE visas, had been used by the hit squad.

From TODAY, Monday, 22-Feb-2010

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