Qatar is supplying Islamist coalition Libya Dawn with weapons, British newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported, amid rising concerns over the Gulf state’s dealings with other Islamist groups in the region.
The newspaper reported that Western officials have “tracked Qatari arms flights as they land in the city of Misrata,” about 160 km east of Tripoli, which the Islamists now claim to control since it was stormed last month.
The report says despite Doha claiming to be one of Britain’s “best friends in the Middle East,” owning several high-end London landmarks, it is helping to thwart London’s goal of maintaining stability in Libya.
“So it is that Qatar buys London property while working against British interests in Libya and arming friends of the jihadists who tried to kill one of our ambassadors. A state that partly owns 1 Hyde Park, London’s most expensive apartment block, and the Shard, the city’s tallest building, is working with people who would gladly destroy Western society,” the report states.
It goes on to cite why “few in the Middle East would be shocked” at such claims.
“From Hamas in the Gaza Strip to radical armed movements in Syria, Qatar’s status as a prime sponsor of violent Islamists, including groups linked to Al-Qaeda, is clear to diplomats and experts,” the Telegraph added.
On Tuesday, Qatar denied an accusation by Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni that it sent three military aircraft loaded with weapons to a Tripoli airport controlled by an armed opposition group.
In a statement to the Qatar News Agency, Assistant Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi described the allegation as misleading and unfounded.
“The policy of the state of Qatar is based on clear and consistent foundations: mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” said the statement.
Nevertheless, Qatar’s support for Islamist groups, most prominently the Muslim Brotherhood, has strained relations with other Gulf monarchies.
This caused Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to withdraw their ambassadors from Doha in March. The Brotherhood is blacklisted in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In an apparent attempt to improve ties, Qatar last week asked several senior figures from the movement to leave the country.
Qatar’s dealings in Syria have also been scrutinized.
The Telegraph cites Doha’s alleged “chosen method for supporting its favored insurgents … to pass large sums to middlemen in Turkey,” who then buy weapons to transfer to rebels in Syria.
This process has thrown into the spotlight whether these “middlemen might be pursuing their own aims,” the report added.
“Qatar was handling weapons and supplies for Syria, but they were never really keeping a full grip on the nature of the conflict,” Michael Stephens, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute’s office in Qatar, told the newspaper.
The Gulf state’s support for groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) has also been questioned.
“Far from being a force for moderation, Ahrar al-Sham played a key role in transforming the anti-Assad revolt into an Islamist uprising. Its men fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, during the battle for Aleppo and they were accused of at least one sectarian massacre,” the report stated.
During a visit to Germany last week, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani reportedly assured Prime Minister Angela Merkel that his country “has never, and will never support terrorist organizations,” amid fresh allegations about the funding of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Qatar is introducing a law “curbing charitable donations abroad” following allegations of funding Islamist extremism, the Sunday Times reported this week.
“It is part of a drive by the rich Gulf state to clean up its reputation as it comes under increasing scrutiny from Western allies and neighboring countries,” the newspaper stated.