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Kuala Lumpur police: Killing of al-Batsh an 'international issue'

Malaysia deputy PM says suspects in killing of Fadi al-Batsh believed to be Europeans with links to foreign spy agency.

Malaysian forensic officers

Kuala Lumpur's chief of police says the killing of a Palestinian academic in the Malaysian capital is an "international issue" that is being investigated from all angles.

Malaysian authorities said an autopsy was carried out Sunday morning on the body of Hamas member Fadi al-Batsh, a day after the drive-by shooting that Hamas and the victim's family blamed on Israel.

"We are investigating all angles. I have to investigate very carefully and deeply. This is an international issue," police chief Mazlan Lazim said.

Gaza's ruling Hamas movement said al-Batsh was an important member of the organisation, accusing Israel's Mossad intelligence agency of being behind the killing.

Calling him a "loyal" member, Hamas said al-Batsh was a "scientist of Palestine's youth scholars" who made "important contributions" and participated in international forums in the field of energy.

The group initially stopped short of blaming Israel, saying only that he had been "assassinated by the hand of treachery".

However, its top leader later accused the Mossad of killing him and threatened retaliation.

Ismail Haniyeh told The Associated Press on Saturday that based on previous assassinations "Mossad is not away from this disgraceful, terrible crime".

On Saturday, he visited the mourning tent the armed wing of Hamas opened outside the house of al-Batsh's family in Jabaliya in the north of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in Gaza, al-Batsh's father called on the Malaysian authorities to investigate the "assassination" with urgency.

Asked if Israel was behind the attack, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman declined to respond directly, suggesting instead that the alleged assassination may have been the result of score-settling within Hamas.

"We heard about this [killing] on the news," Lieberman told Israel's Kan Reshet Bet radio. "There is a tradition among terrorist organisations of blaming Israel for every settling of accounts," he added.

Israeli officials rarely make statements on alleged intelligence agency activity. 

'European suspects'

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia's deputy prime minister, said the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency, according to state news agency Bernama.

Al-Batsh was walking from his high-rise apartment to dawn prayers at a local mosque in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Gombak when he was shot by two gunmen riding a motorcycle, officials said.

At the crime scene, police markers indicated 14 bullets had been sprayed at the victim, some of them hitting a wall.

Outside the victim's home in Kuala Lumpur, Mohammad Shedad, 17, a student and relative of the victim, also blamed Mossad for the killing.

"It is definitely the work of Mossad. Fadi is a very clever person, anyone who is clever is a threat to Israel," he told AFP news agency.

"Fadi is a Hamas member and knows how to make rockets. So [Israel] think he is dangerous."

Al-Batsh leaves behind a wife and three young children. He had lived in Malaysia for the past 10 years.

Ahmad Abu Bakar, 33, a foreign student studying in Malaysia, said he had known the victim for two years.

"He is friendly and he preaches good things. He never preached any hatred. I am shocked by the killing," he said.

In December 2016, Palestinian drone expert Mohamed al-Zawari, was shot dead in Tunisia, with Hamas accusing Israel of killing him.

Israel is widely believed to have killed numerous Palestinian activists in the past, many of them overseas.

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