Dubai's outspoken police chief insists a Canadian security official informed him of the secret arrest of a Mossad assassin, even though Canadian officials deny having ever told him that.
"A senior Canadian security official here told me in July that they have made an arrest of one of the suspects," Lieutenant-General Dahi Khalfan Tamim told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.
In a telephone interview from Dubai, Lt.-Gen. Tamim said "the person informed me then that this information was not to be released in the media and was only for the police. Since then we have not heard any more information and I don't understand the secrecy."
He did not detail just who may have been arrested, where he or she would have been taken into custody, or which Canadian agency supposedly did the job.
His pronouncement has caused befuddlement in Canada's national-security establishment, leaving some officials to speculate that Dubai is seeking to embarrass Canada amid an ongoing row over airport rights.
"Baseless," was the word one well-placed Ottawa official used to describe the general's claim.
The claim of a Canadian connection is the latest wrinkle of a stalled murder investigation that is now one of the world's great whodunits.
In January, a senior leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas was visiting Dubai on an unpublicized visit without his bodyguards. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found suffocated at the five-star Al Bustan Rotana Hotel.
Soon, authorities released video footage of the alleged assassins - 29 people who had used European and Australian passports to get in and out of Dubai in less than 24 hours. Before long, authorities alleged an elaborate assassination plot by Israel's spy service, the Mossad. Dubai police supported the allegation with passport mug shots, credit card numbers, surveillance footage and bank records.
Since its creation, Israel has asserted a right to covertly kill or capture enemies anywhere in the world, even though police in local jurisdictions regard such acts as crimes.
Interpol has posted the mug shots of the alleged assassins wanted by the UAE, but only their aliases are known. After the killing, several European countries sent Israeli diplomats packing, alleging their agents stole the identities of Europeans to fly Israeli agents into the Gulf under false flags.
One alleged passport procurer is facing trial in Germany, but no one else has been charged with crimes.
This has left Lt.-Gen. Tamim to plead with the international community to help him make arrests. He told The Globe Tuesday that one of the suspects had entered the UAE on a fake Canadian passport.
Given the lack of specificity of Lt.-Gen. Tamim's comments, the reaction in Ottawa is mostly one of confusion. "We have nothing to say at this point," said Sergeant Greg Cox, a spokesman for the RCMP.
Two senior sources at the Canadian Embassy in the UAE told The Globe they did not inform the Dubai police chief about any arrest. "We are trying to verify this information with our colleagues in Ottawa," one said, asking to remain anonymous. "Tamim said we gave this info to the Dubai police, and we didn't."
The UAE embassy in Ottawa said it wouldn't comment. Earlier this month, however, it did release a statement saying that it was "disappointed" bilateral negotiations over airport rights had stalled.
For years, Dubai has been lobbying for Canadian airports to open themselves up to more flights from the Gulf. Meanwhile, Canada has had unfettered access to the so-called "Camp Mirage" logistics base - a Dubai landing strip that's existed for years to supply the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan with men and military hardware.
The UAE abruptly cut off Canada's access this month, forcing Defence Minister Peter MacKay's flight to redirect to Europe midair, after he ended a three-day tour of Afghanistan.
Marten Youssef is Special to The Globe and Mail
Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim has made many pronouncements since a Hamas chief was assassinated in a United Arab Emirates hotel room.
January: Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a Hamas founder, is found slain in the the Al-Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai.
February: Gen. Tamim tells the head of Israel's Mossad to "be a man" and admit the killings.
March: He promises to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
March: He promises to block Israelis from entering Dubai. "Police could easily identify Israelis by physical features and the way they speak," he is quoted saying.
September: He cites Israeli espionage as a reason to deny BlackBerry data services within the UAE.
October: He claims Canada has arrested a Mossad suspect, but refuses to say how, who or when.