Anxiety, confusion descend on Qatar

Passengers wait to check-in at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 10 June 2017
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Anxiety, confusion descend on Qatar

DOHA: When 31-year-old Ali Al-Mohanadi heard Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other nations were cutting ties and severing all transport links with his home country Qatar, he emptied the back of his Land Cruiser SUV and drove to a nearby supermarket.
Tensions had been building for days between Qatar and its powerful Gulf Arab neighbors and Al-Mohanadi feared Saudi’s closure of Qatar’s only land border on Monday could lead to price hikes and food shortages in the import-dependent country.
“I bought lots of vegetables, frozen chicken and milk for my children, things I knew would be the first to disappear from the shelves,” said Al-Mohanadi, a former army lieutenant from Qatar’s city of Al-Khor. He said he wanted to be prepared but did not feel panic.
Hours later supermarkets in Doha visited by a Reuters reporter had almost run out of dairy products as scores of people waited in checkout lines and stocked up on beans and other staples.
The rift has provoked confusion and anxiety in Qatar, an energy, banking and construction hub, which is home to 2.7 million people — most of them foreigners. Some Qataris were outraged by the state of affairs.
Authorities tried to calm nerves on Wednesday, releasing a video showing a shop with shelves brimming with food and reassuring Qataris — the wealthiest people in the world per capita — that their quality of life would not be hit.
But the row over Qatar’s alleged support for militant groups has disrupted many aspects of life.
Thousands of Qataris have been unable to board flights to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and cut off from relatives in those countries, in a region where cross-border marriages are common and Gulf rulers refer to each other as “brothers.”
The UAE aviation authority said it had closed air space for traffic to and from Doha.
“My mother who is originally from the UAE cannot visit her sick mother, needless to say we will not be able to see my uncles,” said Mohammed, a Qatar University professor, who gave his first name only.
He said a Saudi friend of his living in Qatar had sent his child to Riyadh for a family visit before the embargo and now he does not know what to do.
Even if the dispute is settled, Qataris and other Gulf Arabs worry that the bitter spat which has seen both sides denounce each other as “enemies” and “traitors” of the Gulf has sown divisions and hostility that will linger on.
“I think it is three things we are scared of: family ties being severed, possible military action and losing the spirit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” said Mohammed, the professor, referring to the regional political and economic union set up in 1981.
Slogans against and in support of Qatar in Arabic have dominated Twitter, which is hugely popular in the region, and have grown steadily more nationalistic and aggressive in tone.
Qatari leader silent
The fact that Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, has yet to speak publicly since ties were cut, has made some Qataris uneasy. Kuwait’s ruler, who is mediating in the crisis, asked him to postpone a speech to the nation earlier this week to give dialogue efforts a chance.
“Of course we are all waiting for him to speak,” said Sara Al-Sulaiti, a Qatari who works in public relations.
Others say Sheikh Tamim’s silence displays the tact US President Donald Trump lacked when he posted a series of Tweets on Tuesday appearing to take sides against Qatar in the dispute.
“The emir is wise not to speak,” said Faraj, a Qatari engineer working for a telecommunications company. “We know that he has a plan for us. Unlike in our neighboring countries we have deep faith in our leaders.”
For low-income foreign laborers, the biggest concerns are possible food price rises and job cuts if projects are stalled because of construction materials being held up at the Saudi border.
Qatar is home to more than a million migrant laborers from countries including India, Nepal and Bangladesh, many of whom for around QR1,000 ($275) a month toil on construction projects including football stadiums and a metro system being built for the 2022 World Cup.
“I have never seen Qatari citizens stocking up on frozen chicken and long-life milks,” said Anup Manoj, an Indian man who works as a cleaner in Doha’s City Center Mall, where many shops no longer stock milk packaged by Saudi Arabia’s Almarai Co, the most affordable kind of milk in Qatar.
“They have money to stock up. But when they stock up it’s laborers and lower income workers who are going to suffer.”


Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

Updated 16 July 2018
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Security alert as Qatari ex-minister linked to terror reappears in public

  • Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatar ruler
  • The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar

JEDDAH: The re-emergence in public of a former Qatari interior minister linked to financing and promoting terrorism has rung alarm bells in the security community.

Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani was photographed in Doha recently autographing a wall portrait of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt  — placed Abdullah Al-Thani on a list of 59 terrorists being sheltered by Qatar. He has been accused of financing several terror operations and of accommodating terrorists, including those involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, at his farmhouse in Qatar.

Al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of those attacks, moved to Qatar “at the suggestion of Abdullah Al-Thani,” according to the US Department of Defense.

In 1995, Abdullah Al-Thani is believed to have provided funding to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to support him in combat in the Bosnian war. While the US pushed for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest, Abdullah Al-Thani told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about the growing pressure for his detention, leading to him leaving the country with a Qatar-provided passport on a government executive jet. When he returned, Abdullah Al-Thani was briefly confined to house arrest.

“This man is a big supporter of terrorism and of Al-Qaeda and there is no doubt that he enjoys the patronage of the Qatari regime. His re-appearance confirms all our worst fears that Qatar is a hotbed of terrorists and anti-Arab plotters,” said Saudi scholar and international affairs expert Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri.

“We had no problem with the United States. We were great allies. But Qatar wanted to drive a wedge between our good ties and so, in league with Iran, they supported and facilitated Al-Qaeda's 9/11 operation.”

Al-Shehri said it was not a coincidence that 15 Saudis were selected by Al-Qaeda, Iran and Qatar for the 9/11 operation. “Their primary purpose was to finish our relationship with the United States. With time and painstaking work by other countries it soon became obvious who was pulling the strings of those terrorists, and why.”

"I think it's the right time to put all international pressure on the Qatari regime," said Salman Al-Ansari, head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).

Abdullah Al-Thani was among the key links, Al-Shehri said. “When Doha realized it was being exposed it sent Abdullah Al-Thani out of the public eye. But it now seems emboldened enough to bring him back into the public glare. This proves once again that Qatar is the biggest promoter and supporter of terrorism, and that the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, have been absolutely justified in snapping ties with Qatar.”

After Saudi Arabia and three other states severed relations with Qatar in June 2017, Al-Qaeda operatives and ideologues came out instantly in support of Qatar. Egyptian Mohammed Shawqi Islambouli, a US-designated terrorist, described Qatar as “the pride of the Arabs.” Abdalrahman bin Omeir Al-Nuaymi, who the US sanctioned in December 2013 for “providing financial support to Al-Qaeda, Asbat Al-Ansar, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Al-Shabaab,” was also among those who rallied in support of Qatar.

On June 4, Al-Nuaymi posted on Twitter: “The latest developments in our region have proven that a state that sows destruction (Saudi Arabia) is inciting the West to sanction states (Qatar) and individuals.”

Al-Nuaymi is a Qatar University professor and former president of the Qatar Football Association. He was also a founding member of a prominent charity — the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad Al-Thani Charitable Foundation, named after a member of the country’s ruling family. The Telegraph newspaper described him as “one of the world’s most prolific terrorist financiers.”

Among the list of 59 individuals and 12 organizations that the ATQ blamed for supporting terror are several who are also sanctioned by international organizations, including the UN. 

Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan Al-Ka’bi, a Qatari national openly living in Qatar, was designated by the UN in 2015 as a known facilitator and fundraiser for the Nusra Front. Al-Ka’bi’s activities in Qatar, including the arranging of funding and transferring funds are well known and documented, yet the Qatari government has done nothing to stop his actions.

Abd Al-Latif bin Abdallah Salih Mohammed Al-Kawari is a known fundraiser for terrorist groups dating back to the early 2000s. At that time Al-Kawari was associated with Ibrahim Isa Haji Mohammed Al-Bakr, himself a designated terrorist by the UN and US. The two were working in Qatar to raise funds for Al-Qaeda organizations based in Pakistan and Al- Kawari was directly connected to the transfer of funds from Qatar to Pakistan. Al-Kawari has also been associated with fundraising and the transfer of funders to the Al-Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front.

One of the major demands made of Qatar by the Anti-Terror Quartet was: “Full withdrawal of all support, shelter and funding for terror and extremist organizations of all kinds.”