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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Qatari Connection to Terror Incidents in Egypt

Filed under: Egypt, Qatar, Radical Islam, Terrorism, The Middle East

In recent days, several reports in the Arab media have drawn a direct link between Qatar and the wave of terror that struck Egypt on July 1, 2015.

On July 2, the Egyptian El Balad channel reported statements by Egyptian security experts that the explosives used to assassinate Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat were delivered to Egypt through the Qatari embassy’s diplomatic mail.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab al-Youm openly accused Qatar of being behind the attack. In a July 5 report, the newspaper claimed Qatar had funded the terror attack by the Islamic State’s Ansar Beit al-Maqdis against Egyptian army units in Sinai; it also allegedly had brought terror operatives from Syria, Iraq, and Libya to Sinai, where they had undergone training for the attack.

President Sisi, wearing commander-in-chief uniform, meets Egyptian soldiers  in Sinai (Credit: Egyptian Presidency Office released via AP)
President Sisi, wearing commander-in-chief uniform, meets Egyptian soldiers in Sinai (Credit: Egyptian Presidency Office released via AP)

The report also claimed that Qatar had coordinated the media coverage of the Sinai onslaught in the Arab and international media.

For example, Al Jazeera, which broadcasts from Doha and is funded by the Qatari government, provided direct coverage of the offensive against the Egyptian army from the moment it began that day at seven in the morning, and highlighted the raising of the black flags of Islamic State in the town of Sheikh Zuweid.

These reports are substantiated by the rising tension between Egypt and Qatar in recent days.

Two days after last week’s attacks in Egypt, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry appointed Mohamed Awad — previously its ambassador to Qatar — to the post of Egyptian consul-general in Mumbai while leaving the Egyptian embassy in Doha without an ambassador.

The Egyptian ambassador to Qatar was recalled in January 2014 to protest “Qatar’s interference in Egypt’s internal affairs” and since then had waited in Cairo to be reassigned.

Egyptian commentators view this step as Egypt signaling its displeasure to Qatar, as well as the fact that Egyptian security officials are aware of Qatar’s involvement in the recent terror incidents.

Although Qatar issued a condemnation of the Egyptian prosecutor-general’s assassination, Egyptians have dismissed Qatar’s statement as a standard denunciation and no more than lip service.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s move is similar to one it made about a year ago when, in light of Turkey’s support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Foreign Ministry recalled Ambassador Abd al-Rahman Salah from Ankara and reappointed him as assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister.

Egyptian-Qatari relations have been tense since President Sisi took office about two years ago. Qatar openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood, finances its activity, and provides political refuge to dozens of its leaders who have fled Egypt since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

Al Jazeera regularly berates the Sisi government and also set up a special, separate branch called Mubasher Misr that broadcasts from Egypt.

Saudi Reconciliation Attempts Rebuffed

The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz tried to reconcile Egypt and Qatar. After his death almost half a year ago, his successor Salman bin Abdulaziz continued these efforts as part of his attempt to create a bloc of Sunni countries that would counteract Shiite Iran’s expansion in the Middle East.

However, Qatar has not honored the terms of the reconciliation that the Saudi king stipulated, and Al Jazeera’s attacks on Sisi’s government and incitement against him have only mounted. Qatar’s ties with the leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared illegal, also continue. A few days ago, the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, hosted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi for a Ramadan fast-breaking meal. Qaradawi, one of the senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt, has a death sentence hanging over him.

Although Egypt has demanded that Qatar and Turkey extradite the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who found political refuge on their soil, they refuse to comply.