A mix of old-fashioned legwork and high-tech razzle-dazzle, scouring hundreds of hours of surveillance videos, helped police home in on suspects in a Hamas man’s slaying, blamed on Israel’s Mossad.
Lacking witnesses but blessed with hundreds of hours of video, the cops and spooks worked the case of the slain weapons smuggler like a movie in reverse.
Dubai’s cameras never blink. The security system allows law enforcement to track anyone, from the moment they get off an airplane, to the immigration counter where their passport is scanned, through the baggage claim area to the taxi stand where cameras record who gets into what cars, which log their locations through the city’s automated highway toll system, all the way to their hotels, which also have cameras.
Which brings us to the Bustan Rotana hotel on the night of Jan. 19, and an assassination made to look like a run-of-the-mill heart attack.
The dead man, as the world now knows, was a 50-year-old Hamas commander named Mahmoud Mabhouh, wanted by Israel in the killing of two Israeli soldiers. Once Dubai investigators narrowed the time of death to 8 to 8:30 p.m., they quickly found that seven people in the Bustan Rotana had no business being there.
Using facial recognition software, a source familiar with the investigation said, a team of 20 investigators pored over hours of security camera videos to sketch out a picture of the suspects’ movements and accomplices, a group that has grown to at least 27 people.
They tracked down taxi drivers and grilled them about the suspects. They even traced the trip of a female suspect to a shopping center and discovered what she bought.
For years, the United Arab Emirates has been using its considerable oil wealth to build up its defense and security infrastructure, including the National Security Agency, the secret police, which is playing a key role in the investigation.
“They buy the best,” said Kamal Awar, a retired Lebanese army officer and editor of Beirut-based Defense 21, a regional military magazine. “They bought the latest technology in satellite and communications.”
In the end, a mixture of high-tech razzle-dazzle and old-fashioned investigative work cracked the case.