Jul 23 2019

Turkey-ally Qatar behind terror attack in Somalia – New York Times

A prominent Qatari businessman told the country’s ambassador to Somalia that militants had carried out a May bombing in the Somali port of Bosaso to advance Qatar’s interests and drive out the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reported on Monday.

A local affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the car bomb that exploded outside a Bosaso courthouse, wounding eight people, but the attack may have also been part of a geopolitical conflict between the UAE, which is aligned with Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, which is closely aligned with Turkey. 

“Over the last two years, war-torn Somalia has emerged as a central battleground, with the UAE and Qatar each providing weapons or military training to favoured factions, exchanging allegations about bribing local officials, and competing for contracts to manage ports or exploit natural resources,” said the New York Times. 

In an audio recording of a mobile phone call obtained by the newspaper, a businessman close to the emir of Qatar speaks to the Qatari ambassador to Somalia. “The bombings and killings, we know who are behind them,” the businessman, Khalifa Kayed al-Muhanadi, said in the May 18 call, according to the Times. 

The violence was “intended to make Dubai people run away from there,” he said. “Let them kick out the Emiratis, so they don’t renew the contracts with them and I will bring the contract here to (Qatar’s capital) Doha.”

“That’s why they are having attacks there, to make them run away,” the ambassador, Hassan bin Hamza Hashem, replied.

These comments, according to the Times, provide striking evidence of the potential for Gulf geopolitics to inflame strife in the Horn of Africa. Turkey has been investing heavily in Somalia, with humanitarian aid and reconstruction projects, for nearly a decade. 

“During a severe famine in 2011, Turkey, an ally of Qatar, donated significant humanitarian aid, and then followed with extensive commercial investment,” said the Times. “Turkey opened a major military base and training programme in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in 2017.”

Qatar and the UAE have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Somalia in recent years. This scramble for power seems to be an extension of the cold war that flared across the region in the wake of the Arab spring, when regional states took sides regarding rising Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.  

“Qatar and Turkey backed the uprisings and the Islamist political parties that rose with them. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia opposed the uprisings and the Islamist parties, and accused Qatar of backing militants,” said the New York Times. 

The UAE firm P&O Ports manages the port in Bosaso. In February, two assailants disguised as fishermen shot and killed the manager working for P&O. The militant group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying that it had assassinated him because it said the Emirati company had occupied the port of Bosaso. 

Qatar has denied supporting Al Shabaab or other militant groups, according to the Times. U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Qatar of financing terrorist groups, but when Qatari Emir Tamim al-Thani visited the White House this month, Trump called him a friend and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised him for helping combat terrorist financing.

Al-Shabaab has in the past attacked Turkey for backing Somalia and its military. In May, the group claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed a Turkish construction engineer in Mogadishu, and in 2013 al-Shabaab attacked the Turkish Embassy, killing three people and wounding nine.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/22/world/africa/somalia-qatar-uae.html