Brussels attacker: Bomb making materials found in home

Belgium’s prosecutor says the man behind a bombing at Brussels central station may have supported the “Islamic State” extremist group. Investigators also found materials used to make explosives in the 36-year-old’s home.

Belgian police outside a house in Brussels

Police who raided the suspect’s home found “possible chemical substances and materials were found that could serve to make explosives,” Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said Wednesday.

The Moroccan national, identified by the initials O.Z., was shot dead by a soldier at Brussels main train station on Tuesday after trying to detonate a nail bomb.

“The preliminary results of the search carried out in the residence of the suspect O.Z. in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, showed that he probably made the bomb there,” Van Der Sypt said in a statement.

Investigators said they also found indications that the suspect had “sympathies for the terrorist organization IS.”

Brussels on alert 

Belgian will keep its current terror alert level at three on a scale of four, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, added security forces will be deployed across the country. Authorities also said that no events would be canceled, but warned those planning to attend not to carry backpacks with them.

Watch video03:15

Brussels explosion – DW’s Max Hofmann reports

Security will be particularly beefed up at the 50,000-seat King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, where British rock band Coldplay is scheduled perform later on Wednesday.

Michel chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday morning, after which he reported that authorities have no information suggesting further attacks are imminent.

Following the meeting, he tweeted: “We will not let ourselves be intimidated by terrorism. We will always defend our values of liberty and democracy.”

Brussels central station remained shut overnight, re-opening at around 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) on Wednesday.

Brussels has been on high alert since a group of suicide bombers carried out attacks at the Brussels airport and a subway station in March last year, killing 32 people.

Attacker details coming to light

Belgian media reported that the assailant lived in the largely immigrant Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, a home and transit point for a number jihadis who carried out terror attacks in Brussels and Paris last year.

Read more: Molenbeek: Kicking away terror

Belgian authorities have carried out a host raids in the area over the past year.

Watch video00:31

Brussels suspect dies after ‘terror’ blast

Assailant used nail bomb in attack

Authorities revealed that the attacker detonated a suitcase containing nails and gas bottles. The passenger approached a group of around passengers at the station before grabbing his suitcase and causing a “partial explosion,” Van Der Sypt said.

“Fortunately nobody was hurt,” he added. “It could have been much worse. It is clear that he wanted to cause more damage than he did.”

The man left his luggage before it exploded a second time. He then charged at a soldier at the scene while screaming  “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). The soldier opened fire, killing the suspect.

Earlier reports had claimed that the attacker had worn an explosive belt, although those claims were dismissed.

dm/sms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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Taliban storm police headquarter in eastern Afghanistan

Taliban gunmen and a suicide bomber have attacked a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least five officers and injuring 22. The assault comes as the US is preparing to send more troops to the country.

Afghanistan Selbstmordanschlag (Reuters/S.Peiwand)

The attack began Sunday morning when a suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives at the main entrance of the police headquarters in the eastern city of Gardez in Paktia province.

The blast cleared the way for the other six attackers who stormed the police station and targeted Afghan officers.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said two gunmen were immediately killed by Afghan police, while the other others held out for hours. It took Afghan security forces most of the day to kill the last gunmen.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

“Around 6:20 (local time) this morning, a martyr attack was conducted by our mujahideen against a special forces base in Gardez, Paktia,” Mujahid said.

“First a car bomb detonated then our mujahideen entered the building, opening fire on police,” he added.

In April, the Taliban launched their “spring offensive” against Afghan and international forces stationed in the war-torn country.

Read: Opinion: Observe and reflect on Afghanistan

Deteriorating security situation

The so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militant group and the Taliban have launched numerous attacks in Afghanistan in the past few months, with experts saying that President Ashraf Ghani’s government is failing to protect citizens.

Read: ‘China and Russia want US out of Afghanistan’

“The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further. Afghan security forces control only about 57 percent of the country’s territory. Around 2.5 million people live in areas controlled by the Taliban and nine million more live in contested areas,” Nicole Birtsch, an Afghanistan researcher at the Berlin-based think tank, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW.

“The number of civilian victims, including many children, remains high. And many people are internally displaced due to the fighting between government forces and the Taliban,” she added.

Sunday’s attack came as the Pentagon is getting ready to send some 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan.

The latest wave of US troops will mainly be deployed to train and advise Afghan forces, following warnings by top US commanders in the region that the local military was facing a resurgent Taliban and a rising threat posed by IS.

Read: Afghan soldier attacks US troops near Mazar-i-Sharif

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Quadriga – Afghanistan – No way forward?

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Germany’s Islamic organization DITIB under fire for skipping ‘March Against Terror’

On Saturday, thousands of Muslims in Cologne will take to the streets in a “March Against Terror.” But Germany’s largest Islamic organization, DITIB, will not be taking part. This decision has drawn strong criticism.

Duisburg Moschee DITIB (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Weihrauch)

Aydan Özoguz, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the German commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, cannot hide her dismay. She has no sympathy for DITIB’s decision not to take part in a Muslim anti-terror demonstration.

“To be frank, it is no longer understandable. I also believe that DITIB is hurting itself the most, especially its own members who, in part, find this call for action good,” she said, adding that these members regard the board’s decision as an affront.

Muslims plan to hold a demonstration under the motto “Not with us” in the German city of Cologne on Saturday to promote peace and show that they are against Islamic terror. Organizers who are associated with the liberal Islam scholar Lamya Kaddor are expecting tens of thousands of participants. The event was heavily advertised on social media.

DIBIT, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, Germany’s largest Islamic organization with a network of around 900 mosques and 800,000 members, regards the demonstration as an affront. In a press release, the group has accused organizers of engaging in sensationalism and expressed concerns that Muslim anti-terror demonstrations would stigmatize Muslims themselves.

Like Aydan Özoguz, Cemile Giousouf also cannot understand DITIB’s argument. She is the integration commissioner for the joint parliamentary group of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Giousouf does not see an “objective reason to refuse to participate in the planned demonstration against Islamic terror.”

Deutschland Zentralmoschee in Köln (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Becker)The DITIB mosque in Cologne was inaugurated in early June

Accusations of espionage and infighting

DITIB is going through hard times. Imams from the organization allegedly spied on community members in Germany who were suspected of being followers of Fetullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric accused by the Turkish government of being behind the country’s failed coup last July. The federal prosecutor’s office has begun investigations into the imams. Trouble is also brewing within the organization itself. The entire federal executive committee of DITIB’s youth organization quit in mid-May because liberal attitudes were not tolerated.

Turkey expert Christoph Ramm from the University of Bern says the recent disputes have arisen at an inopportune moment.

“In the past, DITIB was sort of regarded as ‘everybody’s darling,’ for example, at the Islam Conference,” he said. “It was predictable and based on a secular understanding of Turkey and the people there were familiar. Contrary to other smaller, opaque Islamic associations, it was a welcome dialogue partner for politicians.”

In the course of the failed coup in Turkey in the summer of last year, DITIB became one of the “bad guys,” according to Ramm. He says that most of all, allegations of espionage and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies that were pursued in Germany through DITIB – like the controversial referendum campaign – cast  a bad light on the association.

Aydan Özoguz Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration (picture alliance/dpa/M. Becker)Özuguz says she doesn’t understand DITIB’s position

Public funding

In Berlin, there is a cross-party consensus on DITIB’s refusal to take part in the demonstration. Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the Green Party, agrees with Özoguz and Giousouf. He described the excuse for DITIB’s refusal as “more than flimsy,” adding: “It is beyond me why DITIB does not use the opportunity to send a clear signal of solidarity.”

To integration commissioner Özoguz the problem lies in the fact that decision-makers in associations like DITIB have never really settled in Germany, “although the members for have, for the most part.”

“By that I mean that many were born and raised here,” she said. “But the association, especially the board of directors, is still linked to Ankara in many respects and it attempts to somehow also exert its influence abroad.”

However, DITIB does not seem capable of surviving only off Ankara’s support and without help from Germany. After payments to the association were temporarily suspended because of the espionage affair, the money has been flowing into its accounts again. According to the German Ministry of Family Affairs, “It was decided that funding for projects that have already been approved would resume under consideration of all relevant aspects.” DITIB has received around 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in funding from the German government since 2012.

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Who is the ‘Islamic State’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

From domestic insurgent group to global terror organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has transformed the “Islamic State” into what it is today. Amid reports of his death, DW examines the life of the world’s most wanted man.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Bildnis in Flammen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali Mohammed al-Badri, rose to international notoriety in 2014 as the leader of the self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) militant group ravaging parts of Syria and Iraq.

On Friday, Russia’s defense ministry announced it conducted airstrikes in May that killed several leaders of the militant group, adding that al-Baghdadi may also have died during the assault.

While his adolescence is shrouded in narratives of piety and reticence, the rise of al-Baghdadi as one of the world’s most recognizable criminals has its notable beginning in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Before the ‘Islamic State’

In response to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Baghdadi formed a militant group to join a growing insurgency against occupation.

In 2004, al-Baghdadi was detained by US forces and held in both the controversial Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca detention centers. He reportedly spent more time in Abu Ghraib, an infamous facility known for torture committed by American forces in Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi was released later that year with a large group of low-level prisoners. Several media outlets have claimed that the militant leader had been held by US forces for much longer, however, these allegations have not been substantiated by government records.

In 2006, al-Baghdadi’s troop of insurgents joined others to form the Mujahideen Shura Council. The alliance of several Islamist militant groups later disbanded and formed an organization calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq, commonly referred to at the time as al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bildergalerie zum ARD Special über Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi IS AnführerPeople who knew al-Baghdadi have described him as an individual who clung to religious teachings in his youth

‘Global terrorist’

It is unclear how al-Baghdadi rose through the ranks of al Qaeda’s Iraqi division but in 2010, he was declared the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq following the assassination of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (no relation), who led the group since its formation in 2006.

As the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, al-Baghdadi was responsible for the group’s attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas, which included high-profile suicide bombings targeting Iraqi security services and Shiites.

Following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, al-Baghdadi vowed reprisal attacks against the US and its allies in Iraq.

Read more: ‘Islamic State’ gold remains hard to trace

In October 2011, the US state department announced that al-Baghdadi, referring to him by his birth name al-Badri, had been deemed a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Since then, the US has maintained sanctions against him along with a multi-million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture or death.

Break with al Qaeda

In 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the Islamic State in Iraq’s expansion into Syria. He claimed that the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, had joined forces with his group, and as such, announced the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (known variously as IS, ISIL, ISIS).

Read more: Raqqa: The human cost of degrading the ‘Islamic State’

Al-Baghdadi’s announcement that the Nusra Front had joined his group was contested by the organization’s leader, who appealed to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri decreed that al-Baghdadi should remain in Iraq and not pursue activities in Syria, a decision al-Baghdadi effectively ignored and spelled the end of the Islamic State in Iraq’s allegiance to al Qaeda.

In January 2014, IS took control of Raqqa and expelled the Nusra Front from the Syrian city. The capture of Raqqa pushed al Qaeda to disavow IS in February, saying it “is not a brand of the al Qaeda group.”

From caliph to shadows

IS rose to notoriety in June 2014, when it launched a blitzkrieg campaign and captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, culminating in the ransacking and occupation of Mosul.

On June 29, speaking from a pulpit in the historic Great Mosque of Mosul, al-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate and shorted the group’s name to Islamic State.

Read more: Mosul: the last stand for ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq

However, religious leaders, mainstream scholars of Islam and the wider Muslim community has repudiated the re-establishment of the Islamic institution and al-Baghdadi’s claim to be caliph.

Since the public announcement, al-Baghdadi has effectively drifted into the shadows of the so-called caliphate, where he continues to orchestrate the development and expansion of the militant group as a terror phenomenon that spans the globe. With his possible death still unconfirmed, it remains to be seen what impact this could have on the Islamic State.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate from a historic mosque in Mosul, a city in which his duties as a top leader in al-Qaeda focused onAl-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate from a historic mosque in Mosul

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Jihadi arrests in EU nearly double in 2 years: Europol

The number of people arrested in Europe on suspicion of jihadi activities has almost doubled in the last two years. Overall, there were 142 “failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks” in 2016.

French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower (Getty Images/AFP/B. Guay)

Europol, Europe’s top law-enforcement organization, said in its annual EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report that 718 suspects were arrested on offenses relating to jihadi terror in 2016, up from 395 in 2014.

The number of attacks dropped from 17 in 2014 to 13 last year, six of which were linked to the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group.

Armed police officers outside a rugby match at Twickenham in London. Lauren Hurley/PA Wire Security has been stepped up in the UK following recent attacks

The report noted that women and children, as well as young adults, were playing an increasingly important operational role.

One in four of those arrested in Britain in 2016 were women, an 18 percent increase from 2015, Europol said.

“Female militant jihadists in the West perceive fewer obstacles to playing an operative role in a terrorist attack than men, and successful or prevented attacks carried out by women in Western countries may act as an inspiration to others,” the report said.

In total 1,002 arrests were made in 2016 relating to terror activities. France had the highest number of arrest at 456, with almost a third of those detained 25 years or younger, Europol said.

There were 142 “failed, foiled or completed terrorist attacks” including those by jihadis, more than half of them in the UK.

Syria, Iraq as inspiration

Explosives mimicking those used in Syria and Iraq have become a leading threat to the EU, along with returning fighters, the report said.

The report noted that governments are paying close attention to the use of drone explosives by jihadi groups in Iraq, as homegrown extremists seek to replicate the weapons used there.

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Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Manchester and now another attack in London? European cities have been increasingly targeted by Islamist extremists in recent years. (04.06.2017)

The bomber who struck at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last month, for example, used a backpack bomb packed with bearings and other small pieces of metal, similar to bombs used in attacks by al-Qaida and IS extremists.

The suicide bombing in  Manchester on May 22 killed 22 people. Two weeks later, a knife and van attack in central London left eight dead.

“The kind of attacks that ISIS have used in the conflict zone, including car bombs perhaps and others, if that technical capability is known within the organization then clearly there’s potential for that to be transferred into a European scenario,” Europol chief Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press, using an alternative acronym for IS.

“Although one shouldn’t underestimate, either, the difficulty in doing that on a consistent basis.”

Many Europeans have left IS after growing disenchanted with life under war, if not the brutality of the extremists themselves, Wainwright said.

The concern is how to distinguish them from others who are returning clandestinely to form new networks, he added.

“It’s a reflection of the very serious threat that we face in Europe and a reflection of the fact that I’m afraid we can’t get that threat down to zero,” Wainwright said.

Need for international cooperation

The report noted the need for closer cooperation in intelligence sharing among member states.

“Terrorists do not respect or recognize borders,” the EU’s safety chief Julian King said in the report. “In our resolve to defeat them we must draw on a newfound determination to work together, sharing information and expertise.”

Not all attacks were jihadi-inspired, with the majority of other attacks carried out by “ethno-nationalist” and separatists extremists. For example, dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland were involved in 76 attacks, the report said. This lead to 123 arrests.

Watch video00:45

London attack suspect appeared in jihad doc

jbh/cmk (AFP, AP)

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US President Donald Trump calls on Qatar to cease its role as “funder of terrorism”

The US President has called on Qatar to “do more” to cut off its support for terrorism. Secretary of State Tillerson also said sanctions are impacting the US-led coalition against the so-called “Islamic State.”

USA Trump zieht die USA vom Pariser Klimaabkommen zurück (Reuters/K. Lamarque)

“The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” President Trump said at a White House press conference on Friday before calling on the Gulf emirate to “end that funding.”

“For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations,” Trump said.

The president did not limit his call for greater action against terrorism to Qatar alone but instead urged “Qatar and other nations in the region to do more to combat terrorism and do it faster.”

“Stop funding, stop teaching hate and stop the killing,” he added.

The president’s words are a strong claim against Qatar, a key US military ally that has consistently denied allegations of its support for terror organizations.

Last month, President Trump traveled to the Middle East where he met with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia. The president has claimed that his conversations there pushed him to call out Qatar.

Read: Is Trump fueling tension in the Middle East?

USA Rex Tillerson (Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan)Trump has tapped Tillerson to de-escalate the Gulf crisis.

Trump trails Tillerson

Trump’s press conference came on the heels of a similar statement made by his US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the US State Department.

“We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar,” Secretary Tillerson said in a brief statement to reporters on Friday.

He also added that the blockade was causing “unintended consequences, especially during the holy month of Ramadan” and listed food shortages, the separation of family members, and the withdrawal of children from school as examples.

Qatar receives much of its food across the now-closed land border with Saudi Arabia.

Read: Qatar seeks dialogue as flight bans, food shortages hit

In addition to the humanitarian consequences, Tillerson stated that the blockade was hurting the fight against the so-called “Islamic State” and other violent extremist movements in the region.

“The blockade is hindering US military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS,” Tillerson said, using a common American acronym for the group.

Secretary Tillerson: GCC must emerge united & stronger to show the word the GCC’s resolve in its fight against violence & terrorism.

The United States’ biggest air base in the Middle East is at Udeid air base in Qatar, which also hosts the Qatari air force and other coalition troops. Udeid hosts more than 10,000 personnel from US and coalition forces, as well as more than 100 aircraft that are used in allied military operations in Iraq, Syria and other areas in the region.

Karte Countries that severed ties with Qatar ENGThe blockade of Qatar is the Gulf region’s largest diplomatic crisis in recent years

Qatar ‘must do more’

Tillerson’s statement also addressedthe “terror list” released by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain earlier in the day that included members of the Qatari royal family, as well as Qatar charity organizations.

“We call on Qatar to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors,” he said.

While acknowledging that Qatar  had “made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorists” from within its border, Tillerson noted that the small but wealthy country has supported a wide variety of political groups, from activist to violent ones, and he urged Qatari leaders to increase their efforts.

Read: from Saudi Arabia to Iran to Qatar – is the crisis really about terrorism?

“The emir of Qatar has made progress in halting financial support and expelling terrorists from his country, but he must do more and he must do it more quickly,” the secretary said.

Tillerson said that a resolution was possible through “calm and thoughtful dialogue” and noted the US’ support for the neutral Kuwait to mediate in the crisis.

Read: Germany turns down mediator role but calls for diplomacy

“Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other,” Tillerson said.

Just days earlier, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt, Yemen and Mauritania cut diplomatic ties, suspended transport and closed their borders with Qatar after alleging the emirate supported regional terror groups. The Gulf countries have accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorist activities in Syria and Yemen. Qatar has denied all allegations.

Watch video01:36

Qatari foreign minister visits Berlin

cmb/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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Opinion: Young princes in the Persian Gulf are playing with fire

Qatar stands isolated under accusations of sponsoring terrorism. But this diplomatic crisis is actually about young princes’ unbridled quest for power – with the help of Donald Trump, says DW’s Bachir Amroune.

Katar Doha im Nebel (picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Valat)The clouds over Doha now harbor a shadow of suspicion

It did not take long for the US president to react. Just hours after announcements of the diplomatic and geographic isolation of the tiny emirate of Qatar, Donald Trump pledged that his White House would seek to help de-escalate the situation in the Persian Gulf. If needed, he said, he would dispatch a high representative to the region to mediate.

But Trump is not what one could consider an honest broker in this instance. And it is no coincidence that this saber rattling has begun just days after his historic visit to Riyadh. During that visit, he declared the Wahhabi monarchy in Saudi Arabia to be the leader of the Arab and Islamic worlds, and the USA’s deputy in the region. Their declared enemy: Riyadh’s archenemy Iran and a number of unnamed state sponsors of terrorism. The Saudis spent $100 billion (89 billion euros) for the honor, signing a weapons deal with the USA that will consume most of Saudi Arabia’s financial reserves.

Qatar has now become the first state to be on the receiving end of this new power. The tiny emirate has been trying to establish itself as an independent player in the region and the wider world ever since Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa seized power from his father in a bloodless coup in 1995. With sheer endless gas reserves in one hand and the pan-Arab news outlet Al Jazeera in the other, Qatar became a diplomatic heavyweight. It made the most of that new role by attacking the rulers of other Arab states during the Arab Spring. With that, Qatar’s popularity rose quickly among those critical of various Middle Eastern governments. But it was also a thorn in the side of its big brother Saudi Arabia from the start. Detractors claim that it was Saudi pressure that forced Emir Hamad to abdicate in 2013, to make way for his 30-year-old son Tamim.

The godfather of all counterrevolutionary forces

Amroune Bachir Kommentarbild AppDW’s Bachir Amroune

Yet, Tamim annoyed his neighbors as well, even after Al Jazeera stopped running reports critical of Saudi Arabia’s domestic and foreign policy in 2014. But Riyadh was still unable to openly attack Qatar, that changed when the billion dollar arms deal with Trump was signed. The true architect of the new power dynamic in the Gulf is 56-year-old Muhammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Relatively young among Gulf monarchies, the young crown prince of Abu Dhabi is the godfather of all counterrevolutionary forces in Arab Spring countries. Whether Tunisia, Libya or Egypt: the old guard can count on Muhammad bin Zayed’s support. Hence, his interests are diametrically opposed to those of Qatar, who supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince has excellent relations with US President Donald Trump. And Muhammed bin Zayed has used them to aid an ambitious ally in the region: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud. He wants to become Riyadh’s viceroy as soon as possible so that he can eventually become his father’s successor. The Qatar crisis is indeed closely linked to internal power struggles within the Saudi royal family.

Watch video00:59

Qatar citizens storm supermarkets after trade partners cut food shipments

To be sure, Qatar is no choir boy. The emirate continues to support a number of extremist groups in conflicts throughout the region: such as the former Al-Nusra Front, which was an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Syria. And the emirate is not exactly famous for its democratic values: parliamentary elections were last held in Qatar in 1970 and political parties are prohibited. Not to mention its tenuous relationship with protecting human rights – especially as regards the disgraceful conditions found at FIFA World Cup building sites in preparation for the 2020 edition of the soccer tournament.

Uncompromising and violent

Nevertheless, it is utterly grotesque that Saudi Arabia should now be accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. For the last 60 years, Saudi Arabia has been the world’s biggest exporter of extremist ideology and has helped destabilize many regions around the globe, reaching as far as the Caucasus, the Balkans and Western Europe. Whether Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Islamist groups in Syria, Iraq and in the Algerian civil war, or simply extremist mosques: Riyadh’s petrodollars have fueled the dissemination of the Saudi doctrine of Wahhabism – a strain of Islam that is intolerant of those who think differently and is not afraid to use extreme violence should it feel the need to do so. The so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which was passed by the US Congress to enable terror victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism, was based in large part on Saudi Arabia’s role in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Watch video03:25

Qatar isolated – Middle East expert Simon Mabon

Until now, the presence of the US Air Force at Al Udeid Air Base just west of Doha has been Qatar’s life insurance policy. The Trump administration has said that it has no plans to relocate the base, which is home to some 10,000 US servicemen and women. But such promises do not carry much weight with someone like President Trump in the Oval Office.

Another problem could well be copycat reactions from other Western countries now keen to square old accounts with Qatar. One such utterance just came from Reinhard Grindel, the president of the German Football Association (DFB), who said that he is no longer opposed to a boycott of the Qatar World Cup; and that he hopes such tournaments will not be staged in countries that actively sponsor terrorism in the future. But the accusations of terror sponsorship are just a pretext for the current saber rattling towards Doha. The Saudis are ultimately interested in outright subjugation. Sadly, an Arab world in which every voice that opposes Saudi Arabia is crushed, is also one that will continue to sink ever deeper into misery.

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