At 8:46, exactly 22 minutes after Mahbouh entered his room, four men left, affixing a “Do not disturb” sign on the doorknob. Half an hour later, Mahbouh’s wife in Damascus rang his cellphone. No one answered.
It wasn’t until a day later, at lunchtime, he was discovered by a cleaner, who called a member of hotel security when she couldn’t get in. The door was somehow latched from the inside. They found Mahbouh under the bedsheets wearing only a pair of black shorts. Forensic tests would show he was suffocated after first being injected in the leg with a muscle relaxant to immobilize him.
Hamas announced that day that their comrade had died of cancer in a hospital in the Emirates. But even at the time, few believed it.
Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim was always someone bound for big things. He made police chief of Dubai after only a year as deputy. That was back in 1980, when he was not yet 30 years old. Since then, the pious father of five gained a reputation for meticulousness, hard work, and very close ties with the city rulers.
A man with a tetchy relationship with the media, he nonetheless won plaudits last year for solving the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim (no relation), who was killed on the orders of an Egyptian tycoon. A retrial of the case was ordered by an Egyptian court on March 4. Notably, closed-circuit cameras were key to breaking that case. He also cracked the assassination of a Chechen warlord.
And now, he had every intention of doing it again.