Nightly News   |  February 17, 2010

Hamas official accused of helping Mossad hit squad

Israel will not confirm or deny it was behind last month's assassination of a senior Hamas leader carried out by a professional hit squad. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

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>>> for further questioning.

>>> a story from overseas tonight. we are learning more this evening about an intricate assassination plot, the stuff of movies, carried out by a mysterious hit squad in dubai last month. much of it caught on tape. the target was a palestinian leader. question is, who killed him? we get more from our chief foreign correspondent richard engel .

>> reporter: the sophisticated assassination culminates here at dubai 's luxury hotel where the 11-member hit team is waiting with disguises. hotel security cameras show a bald man check in, but he leaves a bathroom wearing a wig and glasses. the only known female suspect is also seen at the reception desk with dark hair, but later she is a blonde. then the target finally checks in. mahmoud el mabhouh. he is followed by two men in shorts carrying tennis rackets. on the second floor, one of the men in shorts follows mabhouh, apparently to check his room number , as the other watches for cover. mabhouh would be dead within hours and the hit team out of dubai before the body is found. intelligence sources in london say the female member of the assassination team gains access to mabhouh's room by pretending to be a maid. when he opens the door he is shocked with some kind of taser to subdue him and smothered. now there is a fallout. the assassins used six british passports . tonight the british government is asking israel for an explanation. several of the passports used in the plot have the identities of real people living in israel , including handyman john paul keeli. today his house is shuttered.

>> translator: i'm angry. i can't understand why me.

>> reporter: experts say it is to beat security at dubai 's airport.

>> you could come along with a false passport. that would be a red flag straightaway. what they have done is a classic example of identity theft . the only difference between the details in the passport were indeed the photographs of the individuals that went in.

>> reporter: israel will not confirm or deny it was behind the assassination. dubai police suspect more assassins may have been involved. they are continuing to search for accomplices. richard engel , nbc news, london.

>>> now to these winter games