A European political research centre has revealed Qatar’s role in fomenting violence through funding terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa. Now, Somalia is taking its turn in Qatar’s plan to spread broader influence in Africa to become the latest playground where Doha can defend its interests and secure energy resources as it did before in Nigeria and Libya.
A report by European Eye on Radicalization (EER) revealed that Qatar has strengthened its role in African countries rich in natural resources, especially after the targeting of a Qatari convoy and killing of at least eight people in Mogadishu. Intelligence chief Ghanim al-Qubaisi was believed to be the target of the suicide attack executed by the al-Shabaab extremist group in 2013.
The attack prompted Qatar to re-evaluate its objectives in Africa, especially following the increase in discoveries of hydrocarbon resources in Somalia in 2015.
When hydrocarbon is at play, Qatar gets more involved in violence and terrorism in Africa, EER said. Since the start of civil war in Libya in 2014, Qatar supported Islamist groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood and some even more extreme forces in eastern Libya, which was Qatar’s competitor in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market but is no longer now.
Qatar made a clandestine funding deal with Boko Haram to abduct Westerners in Nigeria, a European intelligence official told Ronald Sandee, a former senior counter-terrorism analyst at the Dutch Military Intelligence Service (MIVD) who wrote the EER report.
Qatar then mediated in negotiations and paid for the release of the Westerners. Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) benefitted from the deal, and Western countries had their people freed unharmed, without having to break their own laws to pay ransoms, and would therefore be grateful to Qatar, which was duly hailed in Western capitals.
Nigeria had announced before the incident that it was going to develop an LNG plant that was expected to increase competition with Qatar, which was not able to stop the development of the Nigerian plant.
Kenya and Mozambique have abundant hydrocarbon reserves. Both countries witness a strong presence of al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliates from Somalia. The Qatar Petroleum firm has heavily invested in Somalia, Kenya, and Mozambique for the exploitation of offshore hydrocarbon fields in recent months.
The African trio is expected to witness a decline in violence and radical groups as new projects by Qatar Charity and Sheikh Eid al-Thani Charity will likely increase in eastern Africa.
Last July, the New York Times newspaper obtained a leaked phone call recording that exposed Qatar’s role in the Bosaso port bombing that took place last May, revealing that the operation targeted the undermining of the business of a major UAE company that manages the port of Somalia’s southern city Bosaso.
Qatar is not only seeking to secure its interests in the Horn but also defy interests of other Gulf countries, which are not able to compromise with Doha’s back channel support and funding of terrorist groups.