Malaysian police claim to find guns, van used by assassins of Hamas drone expert

Authorities say gunmen used fake passports from Serbia and Montenegro to enter Malaysia and kill Fadi al-Batsh last month

The coffin of Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh is carried out of a mosque after a prayer in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018 (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
The coffin of Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh is carried out of a mosque after a prayer in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018 (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Malaysian police said Saturday that they had located the weapons and the getaway vehicle used by the assassins who gunned down a Hamas rocket and drone expert in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun told reporters that authorities were currently attempting to locate the owner of the vehicle, according to the Malaysian newspaper the New Straits Times.

Fadi al-Batsh, said to be a rocket and drone expert, was on his way to dawn prayers on April 21 when he was assassinated by motorbike-riding gunmen, a killing his family and the Hamas terror group have blamed on Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

“After shooting the victim and fleeing on a high-powered motorcycle, the suspects immediately switched to a van and escaped,” Fuzi said, according to the New Straits Times.

Inspector General of Royal Malaysian Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun speaks on the killing of a Palestinian man in Malaysia during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, April 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

The motorbike the two suspects were allegedly riding was found abandoned not far from where the assassination took place.

The police inspector-general also said that the two suspects had used fake passports from Serbia and Montenegro to enter Malaysia, “They are also believed to have passports from other countries,” he said.

Previously,  police described the suspects as around 1.80 meters tall, well-built, with fair complexions, saying that they were believed to be of Middle Eastern or Western descent.

He also said the weapons used in the killing had been discovered and sent to a forensic laboratory.

“The police have identified the weapons but I can’t disclose them just yet as we are still waiting for the report,” he said.

An image shows a suspect of killing of a Palestinian member of Hamas released by Royal Malaysia Police during a press conference at police headquarter in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018. (Royal Malaysia Police via AP)

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, identified Batsh as a commander in its military wing and quickly accused the Mossad of being behind the hit. Israeli media reported that Batsh was a key player in a military drone program being developed by Hamas.

Israel has a long history of assassinating wanted terrorists, though it rarely acknowledges responsibility. In an interview published last month, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman insisted Israel did not do it.

“We did not assassinate him,” Liberman told the Arabic news site Elaph. “Ask James Bond,” he added. “Maybe James Bond killed him like in the movies.”

In late April, the New York Times published a report claiming Batsh’s assassination was part of a broader Mossad campaign against Hamas efforts to send experts abroad for technical training and weapons acquisitions.

The report was based on multiple unnamed Middle Eastern intelligence officials, who said the wide-ranging Mossad operation against Hamas’s overseas efforts was ordered by the agency’s chief, Yossi Cohen.

There was no official confirmation of The Times’ report, which did not itself cite Israeli sources.

A picture taken on April 21, 2018 shows men holding up a poster portrait of 35-year-old Palestinian professor and Hamas member Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh who was killed in Malaysia, outside his family’s house in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza strip. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The intelligence officials said Batsh himself, an expert on drones and the nephew of Gaza’s police chief Tayseer al-Batsh, traveled to Malaysia to “research and acquire weapon systems and drones for Hamas,” the Times reported.

According to the Times, the timing of the killing was no accident. The hit occurred on a day in which Batsh was scheduled to travel to Istanbul, ostensibly for an academic conference. But an intelligence official told the Times that Batsh was to meet a Hamas official in the city, which, according to the report, serves as the terror organization’s hub for international training programs.

Officials who spoke to the Times said Batsh was also heavily involved in smuggling weapons systems to Hamas, helping to facilitate the sale to Gaza of North Korean technology used in guided munitions.

Hamas has searched for years for more effective ways to continue its fight against Israel, but Israel’s technological prowess has usually stymied these efforts. Hamas’s short-range rockets, which long terrorized towns in Israel’s south, were mostly neutralized with the development of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The terrorist organization’s tunnel project, which sought to enable it to send fighters deep into Israeli territory, was mostly neutralized by other new Israeli technologies for detecting and demolishing the tunnels.

Now, according to the Times, Israel’s Mossad is concerned that Hamas may be directing its energies toward developing unmanned assault vehicles, a far more potent weapon than rockets.

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