Two years after Qatar was accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad – and isolated by many Gulf states and their African counterparts – comes the news that Qatar may well be coordinating attacks in Somalia.
The New York Times reported Monday that it has possession of an audio recording made by “a foreign intelligence agency opposed to Qatar’s foreign policies” that suggests Qataris were behind a May bombing in the port city of Bosaso in the Puntland region.
The cellphone call between the Qatari ambassador to Somalia and a well-connected Qatari businessman says that Al Shabaab militants are acting on behalf of Doha in order to drive out the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its interests.
“If confirmed, the claim of the Qatari businessman, Mr. al-Muhanadi, would suggest that Qatar had at least tacitly condoned the attacks by extremists in Bosaso even as it helped the government fight extremists in Mogadishu,” the Times reported.
The Emirati interests include global shipping giant DP World, which manages the Bosaso port. A DP World executive was killed at the Bosaso port in February in an attack for which Al Shabaab claimed responsibility. The phone recording of the conversation includes, among other things, the claim that the port contract will go to Qatar once the UAE is pushed out.
According to the Times, a spokesman for the Qatari government said the contents of the phone call, if true, are inconsistent with how the country conducts foreign affairs and, they added, “anybody doing so is not acting on behalf of our government.”
The ambassador said he was speaking as a private citizen and not in his official capacity.
The news comes as Libya, Sudan, and other North and Horn of Africa nations are closely watched for signs that the Gulf rift – pitting Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and others against Qatar and Turkey – is escalating.