2011 was a “jackpot” year with the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and many others – both died a Majestic death that I am sure gained each of them high rankings in the their sandy heaven. UBL and AAA died in their own unique ways – one at the hands of Navy SEALs and the other with the old “rocket through the windshield” technique – thanks to our flying lawn mowers (drones) soaring above.
“Not to take away from those epic tactics – they are reliable and lethal – but I love the more nefarious ways of killing bad guys and would like to highlight the up-close and personal techniques of assassination. Lately, Iranian nuclear scientists have been dying on a regular basis, and I’ll soon review those awesome operational acts, but first let’s review one assassination that started all the Mossad hype: The hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on January 19, 2010.”
In case you didn’t know – the Israelis secret intelligence agency – The Mossad – is more than just an “intelligence” agency. They are geniuses at targeting and are crafty operatives with an intimidating and fatal touch. The Mossad have been fine-tuning their craft for decades, and in recent years have proven to be a well organized, disciplined group of renaissance men and women showcasing works of art all over the world.
The Difference Between Covert and Clandestine
Let’s define some terms that get used poorly by the media and public. I hear covert and clandestine used interchangeably on a regular basis and it’s irritating, so here they are defined – properly!
- Covert definition: To conceal the sponsor or source. That simple. A covert act done properly will never be tied to an agency or government.
- Clandestine definition: To conceal the action. A clandestine act done properly will never be identified, detected, or compromised by the target or third parties.
Clear as mud? Hopefully you’re learning something! There is an essay question at the end Let’s move on to the good stuff…
The Mossad’s Mission
Covertly and clandestinely locate and kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh – a known Hamas Commander and Arms Dealer – and make it look like a heart attack. Was this the first attempt on his life? No, the Mossad attempted to kill him on 3 other occasions.
Snapshot of the Assassination
A team of males and females arrived in Dubai, in alias, some arrived as couples, but most arrived as individuals. They set up surveillance at the airport and waited for the target to arrive. He was identified without pause by the team, then a “discreet/not to lose” surveillance was conducted to his hotel.
Once at the hotel, the team determined his room with more intrusive surveillance techniques without compromise. Once the target was in his room, another team arrived and assassinated him. All of this was done in the very busy Dubai urban environment, undetected, and in less than 24 hours. And when I say less than 24 hours – all members of the team were out of the country and headed home in less than 24 hours. The operations was very successful and impressive regardless of the media attention it attracted.
However, the media reports were an uneducated version of what happened – I don’t want to retell a story that you can Google.
Here is some information that you wont find via Google…well, let me take that back, these days you can find anything if you dig deep enough…
Covertly cross multiple borders, find, fix, and finish the target clandestinely utilizing cover, surveillance, and disguise. Sound simple? Not at all – its actually one of the most complex missions. First, to even get the intelligence required to know where he was going, when he was going to arrive, and how he was getting there – is, in itself, incredible! THEN, stalk him undetected and THEN kill him without compromise to the team – simply awesome.
Make it look like a heart attack? The “kill team” knocked on his door, pushed their way in, and tried to make it look like an accident.
But… how do you make it look like an accident clandestinely?
Not so easy, they decided to try and make it appear as if he died of natural causes – a heart attack. The team used a paralytic drug called succinylcholine (aka “Sux”) to paralyze Mahmoud and render him harmless upon the team’s entry into his hotel room. This drug works immediately when administered intravenously (via a vein). The team didn’t have time to hold him down, find a good vein, and give it to him properly. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t going to roll his sleeve up either. Instead, they had to increase the dosage and administer it muscularly. The same way you receive any standard shot, in the arm or butt.
So, as they entered the room – they stuck him with the needle. By doing this, the consequence is that there’s a delayed reaction; giving Mahmoud time to realize and reflect that it was his time to die. So he did what most would do when realized death is knocking on the front door, he fought for his life. Adrenaline, without a doubt also caused a delay and would have allowed him a little more time – but not much. In the end they wound up suffocating Mahmoud once the paralytic kicked in, a terrible way to die.
Can you imagine? Your still awake but can’t move your body – three guys hover over you – you can see them, hear them – but you can not react – you can not move – they tell you in Arabic that it’s time for you to die and proceed to put a pillow over your face – your brain is telling your arms and legs to fight – but the signal just doesn’t make it – you take your last breaths – and drift into nothingness.
One member of the “kill team” was injured in the struggle – Mahmoud ended up with a mouthful of forearm (not his own) and then took a big bite out of it, a mouth full of DNA. That turns an “accident” into a murder…not very clandestine once that happens.
The Door Locks
This is the cool part! After the team was long gone and Mahmoud was long dead, the maids came by his room to clean. They did what all maids do, knock several times, announce themselves, and then open the door. When the maids tried to open the door, the interior hasp/chain was engaged, allowing the door to only open 3 inches or so. The maids of course were left thinking somebody was in the room either asleep or in the shower. This went on for 3 days before the maids had management forcefully open the door to find a dead Mahmoud.
The team used a rubber band and a thumb tack to lock the hasp from the outside upon their departure – an old trick, but it served its purpose delaying anyone from discovering his dead body.
So, was this operation covert? Was it done clandestinely? The entire operation was pieced together via surveillance video – did the team ignore the fact that there were video cameras all over the airport and hotel?
Or was this a piece of art for the world to admire?