In Summary
  • The New York Times (NYT) obtained an audio recording of a phone call between the Qatari ambassador to Somalia and a businessman who is close to Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that discloses Doha’s complicity in terrorist bombings in the African country.
  • Years after Qatar was accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad – and isolated by many Gulf States and their African counterparts – here comes the news that Qatar may well be coordinating attacks in Somalia.
  • The Qatar strategy in Somalia shows how a small and very ambitious nation is projecting its power beyond its borders.
  • Kenya is well placed to encourage the consolidation of overlapping interests despite the deviating interests of other key players in the region – the Gulf, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, US, EU, etc.

The New York Times (NYT) obtained an audio recording of a phone call between the Qatari ambassador to Somalia and a businessman who is close to Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that discloses Doha’s complicity in terrorist bombings in the African country.

According to NYT, the businessman, Khalifa Kayed al-Muhanadi, told Qatari Ambassador Hassan bin Hamza Hashem that the militants had carried out the bombing in the port city of Bosaso in northern Somalia’s region of Puntland to advance Qatar’s interests by driving out its arch-rival, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The car bomb went off in front of regional government building in Bosaso in May.

For the last seven years, Qatar has been trying to exert its political control for Somalia through its soft power, and buying political leaders and elections but now it seems its influence behind the scenes is extending even to the security apparatus.

Mogadishu has become a frontline in the power struggle that Qatar is waging against the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The latest revelations of the Bossaso bombings and killings are this time captured in phone calls between key officials in the country.

“We know who are behind them,” al-Muhanadi, said in the call on May 18, exactly a week after the bombings. 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 Doha.”
“Our friends were behind the last bombings,” he remarked.

“So that’s why they are having attacks there, to make them run away,” Hashem replied.

Al-Muhanadi is known to be close to the Emir of Qatar. There are photographs of the two together and, according to news reports and text messages provided by the intelligence agency, Al-Muhanadi frequently travels with the Emir.

SCHOOL FRIEND

In a brief telephone interview with The Times, the Ambassador denied knowing Al-Muhanadi and quickly hung up. In a separate telephone interview, Al-Muhanadi said he was only a “school friend” of the Ambassador’s.
“I am a retired man and a trader,” he said. “I do not represent any government,” The Times reports. Asked why he had described the Bosaso attackers as “friends,” Al-Muhanadi said, “All Somalis are my friends.”

Analysts are arguing that if the Bosaso bombing was intended to drive away the Emiratis, it was not the first attack there or any other town in Somalia directed at them. In recent years, Qatar’s approach has relied heavily on the consolidation of its ties with the federal government in Somalia, which is seeking its political support. It has also viewed Somalia as a sphere of influence to minimise the impact of Abu Dhabi’s blockade.

Years after Qatar was accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad – and isolated by many Gulf States and their African counterparts – here comes the news that Qatar may well be coordinating attacks in Somalia.

The Qatar strategy in Somalia shows how a small and very ambitious nation is projecting its power beyond its borders.

Under the belligerent Amir, Qatar has embraced a much more pushy foreign policy than soft power practiced in previous years— a move intended to establish partners in every region in order to counter Gulf rifts.

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