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UK.gov blames Israel for cloning passports in Dubai hit

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The UK Foreign Secretary has directly blamed Israel for forging 12 passports used in the Dubai assassination of a Hamas military boss in January.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, founder of Hamas's military wing, was killed in a Dubai hotel on 19 January by a 27-strong hit squad who entered the UAE using counterfeit passports from Western countries. A dozen of these passports were "British".

"These were high quality forgeries… highly likely made by a state intelligence service," David Miliband told the House of Commons on Tuesday. "We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of British passports.

"This is intolerable. The fact that it was done by a friend... adds insult to injury."

During an ongoing investigation by the UK's Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) all 12 British victims were questioned. Officers concluded all 12 were "wholly innocent victims of identity theft". Most of those whose IDs were stolen were UK citizens resident in Israel who hold dual citizenship.

"SOCA were drawn to the conclusion that the passports used were copied from genuine British passports when they were handed over for inspection to people linked to Israeli either in Israel or in other countries," Miliband told the Commons, citing conclusions from the SOCA investigation. "They found no links to any other country."

Miliband has sought assurances from Israeli foreign minster Avigdor Lieberman that British passports will not be misused in this way again. An unnamed Israeli diplomat was expelled over the misuse of British passports in the Dubai hit.

Miliband repeated an earlier Foreign Office denial that Britain had no advance knowledge of the assassination.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 12 Brits whose identity was abused in the assignation have accepted higher security biometric passports. The Foreign Office also plans to amend travel advice for UK citizens visiting Israel to cover the potential risk of identity theft and to set out precautions against passport details being swiped. ®

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