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Qatar flights using Somali airspace

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors (all times local):

10 p.m.

A Somali civil aviation official says at least 15 Qatar Airways flights have used Somalia’s airspace since Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations moved to sever links with the Gulf nation.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said that before the Gulf diplomatic crisis erupted Monday, just one or two Qatar Airways planes flew over Somalia each day.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and have moved to isolate the country by shutting down land, sea and air links, accusing it of supporting terror groups in the region. Qatar has denied the allegations.

The Qatari capital, Doha, is a major international transport hub.

— Abdi Guled

9 p.m.

A Turkish official says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is “actively involved” in efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its neighbors and has spoken by telephone with Gulf leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Monday that the government hopes Erdogan’s initiative will help overcome tensions.

He did not provide details on Erdogan’s calls but said Turkey views the crisis as a “serious” one that needed to be solved before it escalates.

Kurtulmus said “the Middle East is not at a point where it can endure a new crisis.”

Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations severed ties with Qatar Monday and moved to block land, sea and air routes to the tiny Gulf nation, which they accuse of supporting terrorist groups. Qatar denies the allegations.

Both Qatar and Turkey back Islamist groups that are outlawed by other countries in the region.

8:50 p.m.

The U.S. military’s Central Command says it has “no plans to change our posture in Qatar” amid a Gulf diplomatic crisis.

Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway told The Associated Press in a statement Monday that U.S. military aircraft continue to fly missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria despite the rift.

The major said: “We encourage all our partners in the region to reduce tensions and work towards common solutions that enable regional security.”

Qatar is home to the vast Al-Udeid Air Base that holds the forward headquarters of Central Command and hosts some 10,000 American troops.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced early Monday they would sever diplomatic ties to Qatar, calling into question whether that would affect U.S. military operations.

8:30 p.m.

The Kremlin has voiced hope that the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors will not hurt international anti-terror efforts.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Monday that Russia hopes the tensions “will not affect the general determination to fight terrorism,” adding that the latest terror attack in London again underlined its importance.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Monday severed ties with Qatar and moved to block land, sea and air routes to the tiny energy-rich Gulf nation, which they accuse of supporting terror groups, charges denied by Qatar.

Peskov declined to comment on the accusations leveled against Qatar.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meanwhile expressed “serious concern about a new wave of tensions within the Arab world” in a phone call with his Qatari counterpart.

The ministry said Lavrov “called for emerging differences to be resolved at the negotiating table, through mutually respectful dialogue in the face of unprecedented challenges, primarily the threat of terrorism.”

8 p.m.

The head of Germany’s soccer federation says that “political solutions must have priority over threats of boycotts” in the five years ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

Reinhard Grindel was asked in an interview posted on the federation’s website Monday if there are questions over whether the 2022 tournament can be played in the Gulf state.

He said that, independently of the current situation, “the soccer community worldwide should agree in principle that big tournaments can’t be played in countries that actively support terror.”

Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries severed ties to Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting regional terror groups. Qatar has denied the allegations.

Grindel said “we take note very attentively and with concern of the current, serious accusations.”

Grindel is a member of FIFA’s ruling council.

7:45 p.m.

Saudi Arabia has closed the offices of Qatar’s Al-Jazeera news network after severing ties with the energy-rich Gulf nation, which it accuses of supporting terrorist groups.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Monday, the Culture and Media Ministry said it withdrew the famed network’s license.

The ministry said the move came in response to Al-Jazeera’s “promotion of the terrorist organizations’ plots” and its alleged support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the target of a two-year-old Saudi-led military intervention.

It also accused the network of attempting to “split the Saudi ranks,” without elaborating.

7:15 p.m.

Egypt’s aviation authorities say all flights to and from Qatar will be suspended starting Tuesday.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation decree on Monday came hours after Cairo severed relations with Qatar, accusing it of harboring terrorism.

The move led to confusion at Cairo International Airport. One Doha-bound flight was delayed for hours before it was allowed to take off.

The aviation ministry said Egyptian airspace will be closed to Qatari flights starting Tuesday at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) Cairo time.

5 p.m.

An Iranian official says his country can export food to Qatar by sea, as Saudi Arabia and three other nations move to isolate the gas-rich nation after severing diplomatic ties and accusing it of supporting terrorism.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Reza Nourani, chairman of the union of exporters of agricultural products, as saying Monday that food shipments sent from Iran can reach Qatar in 12 hours.

Qatar relies on food trucked in from Saudi Arabia across its sole land border. Al-Jazeera reported that trucks carrying food for Qatar are now lining up across the border, unable to enter the country.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals who back opposing sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

4:30 p.m.

Iran says rising tensions among its Arab Gulf neighbors threaten the interests of everyone in the region and has called for “political and peaceful methods” to resolve the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Egypt, severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the gas-rich nation of supporting regional terrorist groups. The four nations also moved to cut off Qatar’s land, sea and air routes to the outside world.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was quoted on the ministry’s website as calling for a “clear and explicit dialogue” among the feuding nations.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, discussed the recent developments in a phone conversation.

4:15 p.m.

Maldives has announced it is severing diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged support for Islamist groups.

It joined Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday and began withdrawing its diplomatic staff.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that Maldives has pursued a policy of promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, and the decision was made because of its firm opposition to activities that encourage terrorism and extremism.

Diplomatic relations between Maldives and Qatar began in 1984.

Maldives, a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation with 341,000 people, also grapples with extremism. It reportedly has one of the highest per capital rates of people going to fight in foreign wars.

4:10 p.m.

Egypt’s foreign ministry says it has given the Qatari ambassador in Cairo 48 hours to leave the country and ordered its own envoy in Doha to return home, also within two days.

Monday’s announcement came just hours after Egypt joined three of its Gulf Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — in severing ties with Qatar over its relations with Iran and support for militant Islamic groups.

An earlier statement by the Egyptian ministry said Egypt was also suspending air and sea links to Qatar and, citing national security, closing its airspace to Qatari aircraft.

Egypt’s relations with Qatar have been fraught with tension since the ouster in 2013 by the military of an Islamist president allied with Doha. It also accuses the tiny but energy-rich Gulf nation of supporting militant Islamic groups and meddling in its domestic affairs.

3:50 p.m.

Following suit, one of Libya’s three rival governments has announced cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar, after four Arab countries severed ties.

Mohammed al-Deri, the Libyan foreign minister of the interim Libyan government, accused Qatar of “harboring terrorism” according to a Libyan official agency LANA.

The Interim government is affiliated with the internationally recognized House of Representatives and is based in eastern Libya. Another internationally recognized Government of National Accord is seated in Tripoli and brokered by the United Nations. A third rival government is also based in Tripoli.

The eastern Libyan power players have always accused Qatar and Turkey of backing Islamists in Libya, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Libya sank into lawlessness after the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

3:40 p.m.

Turkey has voiced its “sadness” over the Gulf Arab states dispute with Qatar and said it was willing to work to normalize ties.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday called on all sides of the dispute to press ahead with dialogue and overcome differences in a “peaceful way.”

Turkey has developed close ties with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia in recent years.

Cavusoglu said: “We are saddened by the existing picture. We will provide every kind of support for the situation to be normalized.”

1:15 p.m.

The head of Iran’s influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy says the differences between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the region

The official IRNA news agency on Monday cited Alaeddin Boroujerdi as saying that because of the signing of a major arms deal between the Saudis and the U.S. during Trump’s trip: “It is not unlikely that we would witness more negative incidents in the region.”

Boroujerdi says Washington has always made it a policy to establish a rift among Muslim countries. He says: “Intervention of foreign countries, especially the United States, cannot be the solution to regional problems.”

2:30 p.m.

Al-Jazeera is reporting that trucks carrying food for Qatar are now lining up across the border in Saudi Arabia, unable to enter the country amid a diplomatic row between it and Arab nations.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it would close its land border to Qatar, part of it cutting diplomatic ties to the country along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

That could mean significant trouble for Qatar, which relies on food trucked in from Saudi Arabia.

Doha News, a local news website in Qatar, reported some citizens and residents of the energy rich country already had begun swarming grocery stores. It said some stores had begun seeing their shelves empty over fears that the crisis could see groceries run out of products.

2:20 p.m.

International soccer’s governing body says it remains in “regular contact with Qatar” amid a growing diplomatic crisis between it and other Arab countries.

FIFA issued a short statement Monday saying it spoke with “the Qatar 2022 Local Organizing Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

It said: “We have no further comments for the time being.”

The statement comes after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

2:15 p.m.

A low-cost airline based in the United Arab Emirates says it is suspending flights to Qatar along with other Emirati airlines over a growing diplomatic crisis.

Air Arabia says it flights will be suspended from Tuesday “until further notice.”

It is joining Emirates, Etihad and FlyDubai in halting flights to the Qatari capital of Doha. Saudi Arabian Airlines also stopped its flights to Qatar.

The airlines’ decision comes as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

1:10 p.m.

Saudi Arabian Airlines says it is suspending flights to Qatar, joining other airlines stopping service amid a growing diplomatic rift.

The airline, also known as Saudia, posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon that it would be halting flights, without elaborating.

It is joining Emirates, Etihad and FlyDubai in halting flights to the Qatari capital of Doha.

The airlines’ decision comes as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

12:05 p.m.

Dubai’s budget carrier FlyDubai says it has canceled its flights to Qatar amid a diplomatic dispute between it and other Arab countries.

The carrier said Monday that all flights starting Tuesday would be suspended. It offered no other details.

FlyDubai’s decision follows that of Emirates and Etihad in canceling flights to Doha.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties earlier Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

11:45 a.m.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has cut relations with Qatar and says it supports the decision by the Saudi-led coalition to end Qatar’s participation in the war on the Houthis there.

Four Arab nations cut diplomatic ties to Qatar early Monday morning over its support for Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

Qatar had participated in the coalition since March 2015.

The government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi says it severed ties with Qatar in part over its support of extremist groups in Yemen “in contradiction with the goals announced by the countries supporting the legitimate government.”

11:20 a.m.

The Dubai-based airline Emirates says it is suspending flights to Qatar amid a growing diplomatic rift.

Emirates said on its website Monday flights would be suspended until further notice starting Tuesday.

The airline’s decision comes as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

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10:55 a.m.

Qatar says there is “no legitimate justification” for four Arab nations cutting diplomatic ties to it.

Qatar also says the decision is a “violation of its sovereignty,” vowing to its citizens it won’t affect them.

Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry made the statement Monday, hours after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced it would be cutting ties to the peninsular nation.

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

9:35 a.m.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad says it is suspending flights to Qatar amid a growing diplomatic rift.

Etihad said on its website Monday its last flights “until further notice” would leave early Tuesday morning.

Etihad gave no reason for the decision. It is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates.

The airline’s decision comes as Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all cut diplomatic ties Monday to Qatar over its support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran.

Qatar has yet to comment on the growing crisis.

7:10 a.m.

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties to Qatar.

The two countries have joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties to Qatar amid a growing Arab diplomatic dispute with the small, gas-rich nation.

Both the UAE and Egypt made the announcement on their state-run news agencies within minutes of each other.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

7 a.m.

Saudi Arabia says it is cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar and it has pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia made the announcement via its state-run Saudi Press Agency early Monday. It appeared to be timed in concert with an earlier announcement by Bahrain similarly cutting ties.

Qatar had no immediate comment.

The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency. It has spiraled since.

6:50 a.m.

Bahrain says it is cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar amid a deepening rift between Gulf Arab nations.

Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from the Qatari capital of Doha within 48 hours and that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period.

The ministry’s statement said Qatari citizens needed to leave Bahrain within two weeks and that air and sea traffic between the two countries would be halted. It wasn’t immediately clear how that would affect Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers.

Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos in Bahrain” for its decision.

Qatar had no immediate comment.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia scores Qatari praise for security in Horn of Africa region

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Qatar has lauded efforts of Ethiopia in maintaining peace in the Horn of Africa region. The applause from Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was during a meeting with Ethiopian premier Hailemarian Desalegn.

The state-affiliated FBC reports that the two leaders spoke on areas of strengthening security, investments and diplomatic ties. The Emir is said to have lauded Ethiopia as a strategic partner and one key to peace in the Horn of Africa region.

Desalegn is in Doha on an official visit reciprocating a similar one earlier this year by the Emir to Addis Ababa.

Another Ethiopian state outlet, ENA, reported about diplomatic agreements signed by both countries in the area of visa waivers.

“Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman signed the agreement providing for waiver of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and official passports.

“Finance and Economic Cooperation Minister Dr. Abraham Tekeste and Qatari Economy and Trade Minister Ahmed Bin Jassim signed the protection of investment agreement,” ENA reported.

On the issue of the Gulf crisis, Ethiopia reiterated its stance with the Kuwaiti move to resolve the dispute through dialogue. Unlike Djibouti and Eritrea who took sides in the crisis, Ethiopia and Somalia maintained a neutral stance and backed calls for dialogue.

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Middle East

Saudi ‘freezes bank accounts’ of Mohammed bin Nayef

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Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s ex-crown prince who was ousted as next in line to the throne in June, has reportedly become the latest royal family member to be targeted in the kingdom’s expanding anti-corruption crackdown.

According to Reuters news agency and the Wall Street Journal, bank accounts linked to Mohammed bin Nayef and to some of his immediate relatives were frozen by Saudi authorities.

Both reports on Wednesday cited sources “familiar with the matter”. The Reuters report was also carried by Saudi state-owned media.

The freezing of Mohammed bin Nayef’s accounts came as Saudi authorities launched a new arrest campaign as part of the widening purge that began on Saturday, according to Reuters.

Dozens of royals, government officials and influential entrepreneurs have already been detained, facing, a number of allegations, including money laundering and bribery.
Among those held are 11 princes, four ministers and several former ministers, in what is seen as an unprecedented crackdown that has shaken the kingdom.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic bank accounts frozen as a result of the purge is more than 1,700 and increasing, according to the reports.

High-profile detentions

The steps were the latest in a series of policies widely seen as an effort by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to assert power over the country and its political and business elite.

On Saturday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced that his son, the crown prince, would oversee a newly formed anti-graft commission that would purge the country of corruption.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding was among those held. The list of detainees also included senior ministers who were recently sacked, such as Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Faqih, the economy minister.

Mohammed bin Salman replaced his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as the kingdom’s crown prince in June.

Mohammed bin Nayef made his first confirmed public appearance since his ousting at the funeral on Tuesday for Prince Mansour bin Muqrin Al Saud, deputy governor of Asir province, according to Saudi media.

Mansour bin Muqrin died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. No cause has been given for the crash.

‘Rights concerns’

On Wednesday, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statementthe “mass arrests” carried out by Saudi Arabia raises human rights concerns.

“The middle-of-the-night simultaneous establishment of a new corruption body and mass arrests over corruption raise concerns that Saudi authorities detained people en masse and without outlining the basis of the detentions,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said.

“While Saudi media are framing these measures as Mohammad bin Salman’s move against corruption, the mass arrests suggest this may be more about internal power politics,” she added.

The rights group noted that arbitrary detention is in contravention of international human rights law, and demanded those arrested be informed of the “specific grounds for their arrest” and ” be able to fairly contest their detention before an independent and impartial judge”.

“Saudi authorities have not disclosed the specific reasons for the detention of the dozens of other people since mid-September. But the detentions fit a pattern of human rights violations against peaceful advocates and dissidents, including harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, travel bans, detention, and prosecution,” its statement added.

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Saudi Arabia purge widens with ‘arrest, no-fly list’

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Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption purge has widened after one of the country’s top businessmen was reportedly detained, accounts were frozen and a no-fly list was drawn up.

On Monday, Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, a board member of Saudi Arabia’s biggest travel company, was reportedly added to the list of detainees, which already included some of the country’s most influential officials and entrepreneurs.

Among those detained are 11 princes, four ministers and several former ministers, in what is seen as an unprecedented crackdown that has shaken the kingdom.

The dramatic steps were the latest in a series of measures by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to assert power over the country and its previous leaders.

On Saturday, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced that his son, the crown prince, would oversee a newly formed anti-graft commission that would purge the country of corruption.
In a statement via the Saudi Center for International Communication, Khalid bin Abdulmohsen Al-Mehaisen, president of the anti-corruption commission, said: “The evidence of transgressions and financial mismanagement uncovered recently points to widespread corruption in a number of cases.

“The responsibility of the new anti-corruption committee is to ensure that investigations into those cases are completed, and that the full force of the law is applied,” Mehaisen said.

Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said that the purge was only “phase one” and that detainees had been questioned.

“Yesterday [Saturday] does not represent the start, but the completion of Phase One of our anti-corruption push,” Mojeb said, adding that investigations were done discreetly “in order to preserve the integrity of the legal proceedings and ensure there was no flight from justice”.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding was among those held, according to Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed senior official.

The list of detainees also included senior ministers who were recently sacked, such as Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Faqih, the economy minister.

‘No-fly list’

On Monday, stock in Al Tayyar Travel was down 10 percent in the opening minutes at Saudi Arabia’s stock index after media reported the detention of Tayyar.

Meanwhile, Saudi banks reportedly started freezing bank accounts of the suspects.

“The committee has the authority to reveal the bank details of the accused, freeze their assets and funds, and take other appropriate measures,” anti-corruption commission president, Mehaisen, said.

“However, it will ensure that no wrongdoer is able to escape punishment, regardless of their position and status, while at the same time doing everything to protect the innocent. As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated clearly, no one is above the law, and no one who is proven to have indulged in corruption will escape, not even a prince or a minister.”

Pan-Arab daily Al-Asharq Al-Awsat reported that a no-fly list has been issued and that security forces in several Saudi airports were ordered to bar private jets owners from taking off without a permit.

“Security members were seen in the lounges of private jets to monitor the situation and to make sure that no plane leaves the kingdom without a permit,” the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources, adding that security personnel were given a list of specific names of individuals who should be prevented from leaving.

The shake-up of the Saudi government comes just months after King Salman replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his son Mohammed as the kingdom’s crown prince.

Mohammed bin Salman has been responsible for pushing through a number of changes both at home and abroad since he became first in line to the Saudi crown.

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