Saudi’s massive blow to Qatar

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SAUDI Arabia and three of its allies have issued a long list of individuals and entities it claims are linked to Qatar over “terrorism”.

In the first joint statement since Qatar was cut off from its neighbours on Monday, Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain published the names of 59 people, including Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi.

The statement has been released in a bid to further their claim that Qatar sponsors and harbours known terrorists and entities.

The list published in the Saudi Gazettealso named 12 entities, among them Qatari-funded charities Qatar Charity and Eid Charity.

The list comes days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya and the Maldives all severed diplomatic ties with gas-rich Qatar, which has been accused of supporting Islamist groups, including some backed by Iran.

Qatar has rejected the claims.

The dramatic action plunged the Middle East into its first diplomatic crisis in years with US Donald Trump among the world leaders offering to help Qatar and its Arab neighbours resolve the crisis.


media_cameraQatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has rejected its neighbours claims. Picture: Bilal Hussein/AP

As well as cutting diplomatic relations and ordering Qatari citizens to leave their countries within 14 days, the Gulf states and Egypt banned all flights to and from Qatar.

The seven nations severed ties with the gas-rich emirate which has long exercised an independent streak in its foreign policy in defiance of its neighbours.

In the statement released today the allies accused Doha of harbouring “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilise the region including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (the Islamic State group) and Al-Qaeda”.

“This list is connected to Qatar and serves suspicious agendas in an indication of the duality of Qatar policies,” the statement from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain read.

It shows that Qatar “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organisations on the other hand,” they said.

The statement also said the four countries released the names in “light of their commitment to fight terrorism, drying up their sources of funding, combating extremist ideology and its dissemination and promotion, and working together to exterminate it and protect all communities.”


media_cameraSaudi Arabia and allies including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar on June 5, accusing the Gulf state of supporting extremism. Picture: AFP

As the list was released a defiant Qatar said it would not “surrender” and rejected any interference in its foreign policy.

“We are not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender, the independence of our foreign policy,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Al Jazeera.

He also said Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani would not leave the country while it was “in blockade”.

QUESTIONS REMAIN

Middle East expert Dr Ben Rich said the release of the list had to be taken with a grain of salt.

“Both the Saudi Gazette and al-arabiya are well known as disseminators of Saudi propaganda,” he said.

Dr Rich, a lecturer from Curtin University’s Department of Social Sciences and Security Studies, told news.com.au the allies hadn’t provided a lot of support as evidence for their claims.

He also said Saudi media had launched a smear campaign against Qatar for at least the past month and the cutting of ties was well planned.

The list contains at least two names already designated internationally as terrorist financiers, and against whom Qatar took action, according to a previous US Department of State report.


media_cameraPeople buy snacks at a shop in Doha after Saudi Arabia closed its borders with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies. Picture: AFP

Those two, Sa’d al-Ka’bi and Abd al-Latif al-Kawari, are among dozens of individuals and entities named Friday by Saudi Arabia and its three allies.

“The four countries agreed on categorising 59 persons and 12 entities in their list of terrorism,” they said, affirming “that they won’t be lenient in pursuing” such persons and groups.

Along with Qataris, many on the list are individuals and groups from Egypt, Bahrain and Libya.

Riyadh has itself faced accusations of tolerating or even supporting extremists, in particular after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

In its latest Country Reports on Terrorism, the US State Department said Qatar in 2015 froze assets and imposed travel bans on Ka’bi and Kawari, both of whom are Qatari citizens.

“Despite these efforts, entities and individuals within Qatar continue to serve as a source of financial support for terrorist and violent extremist groups, particularly regional Al-Qaeda affiliates such as the Nusrah Front,” the State Department said.

“Qatar has made efforts to prosecute significant terrorist financiers.”

CYBER WAR CLAIM

As the fallout continues, Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera said it was under a widescale cyberattack which had targeted “all systems.”

“Al Jazeera Media Network under cyberattack on all systems, websites & social media platforms,” it said on Twitter.

A later statement from the broadcaster said the attack occurred after a fortnight of increased cyber activities, aimed at its network.

Following the initial reports of a cyberattack, some viewers in the region said they could no longer receive Al-Jazeera television.

Al-Jazeera, one of the largest news organisations in the world, has long been a source of conflict between Qatar and its neighbours, who accuse the broadcaster of bias and fomenting trouble in the region.


media_cameraAs tensions flare between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and their allies, reports of hacking are emerging across the Gulf. Picture: Raphael Satter/AP

TERROR FALLOUT

Meanwhile as the furore and fallout grows, Egypt has asked the United Nations to investigate an enormous ransom that Qatar allegedly paid an IS-linked “terrorist group” in order to free members of its royal family detained in Iraq.

Speaking during a Security Council debate on the threat of terrorism, Egypt’s deputy ambassador to the UN Ihab Moustafa accused Qatar of paying “up to $1 billion to a terrorist group active in Iraq in order to release members of its royal family kidnapped and detained in Iraq while on a hunting trip.”

“If proved correct, it is a clear support to terrorism,” he said, noting that the group was linked to the Islamic State group.

Gulf states were outraged by the ransom paid by Doha earlier this year to secure the release of a hunting party, which included members of the Qatari royal family, kidnapped in southern Iraq.

According to the Financial Times, the ransom was paid in April to secure the release of the hunting party, but the move didn’t go down well with its neighbours.

“The ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a Gulf expert told the Financial Times.

debra.killalea@news.com.au

Originally published as Saudi’s massive blow to Qatar



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