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Qatar 96: Al Jazeera reveals details of Saudi-sponsored coup

The coup in Doha was allegedly approved by the current king of Saudi Arabia [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 March, 2018

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Al-Jazeera on Sunday aired the first part of 'Qatar 96', a documentary series being shown for the first time about a coup against the government in Doha sponsored by Riyadh
Al Jazeera on Sunday aired the first part of 'Qatar 96', a documentary series being shown for the first time about a coup attempt against the government in Doha sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in 1996.

The documentary showcased never-seen-before exclusive documents and testimonies by individuals involved in the failed putsch, and an interview with a former US ambassador to Doha.

The first installment of the documentary, showed secret documents containing alleged instructions from Saudi intelligence to facilitate the entry of scores of tribal militias through the border crossing with Qatar.

This was done in collaboration with Egyptian officers serving in the Qatari army and put in charge of setting the zero hour for the coup.

The Doha-based television network also showed a letter allegedly containing the approval of then-emir of Riyadh and current King Salman bin Abdulaziz for the operation.

According to the documentary, zero hour had been set at 5am on 16 February 1996, but was brought forward to 3am two days prior to the coup. 

The putschists mustered south-west of Doha, and the plan was to lay siege to the home of the emir of Qatar, seize all communications, and broadcast the coup's messages from Bahrain.

However, according to the documentary, a low-ranking officer was able to expose the plan, which was subsequently thwarted after authorities declared a state of emergency.

The second episode will air details on how the coup was foiled by Doha.

Fahd al-Maliki, a former Qatari intelligence officer accused of being involved in the coup plot, told Al Jazeera that the leaders of the coup were operating out of Gulf countries and Egypt.

He said they included Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Hamad, former commander of the Qatari police, as well as Saudi Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz and Omar Suleiman, former chief of Egypt's intelligence services.

The idea of the coup - claimed Maliki - was the brainchild of the ruler of the UAE the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan.

For his part, former US ambassador to Qatar Patrick N. Theros confirmed to Al Jazeera there had been at least two coup attempts he knew of in late 1995 in Doha, involving South African and French mercenaries.

Paris was able to uncover the plot, Theros said, and notified the US authorities.

Since June, Qatar has been under a diplomatic siege by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. These are the same four countries involved in the 1996 coup, who have now imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the tiny Gulf emirate.

Saudi Arabia and its allies then issued Qatar with a list of demands, including shutting down media outlets Al Jazeera and London-based The New Arab, curbing relations with Iran and closing a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The quartet accuses Doha of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran - charges that Qatar vehemently denies, and says the blockade is a bid to turn it into a vassal state.

The quartet reportedly plotted a similar invasion and regime-change attempt in Doha during the ongoing crisis, but reports suggest the US was able to thwart the plan. 

Qatar recently said the Saudi-led anti-Doha alliance had "complete plans" to invade Qatar during a 2014 dispute between Gulf states.

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