An exclusive Al Jazeera documentary has uncovered evidence of the involvement of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain in supporting a foiled coup attempt to overthrow the Qatari government in 1996.
Airing for the first time on Sunday, the first episode of the investigative documentary incorporates interviews with leaders of the coup attempt who give testimony of the role of these countries played in plotting the overthrow. It also brings to light documents belonging to Saudi intelligence and the Saudi monarch about the plot.
The failed coup, dubbed “Operation Abu Ali”, took place during the month of Ramadan on February 14, 1996, one year after the former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani assumed the throne.
It was planned in conjunction with the then-police chief and cousin of the former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The documentary reveals that a committee was formed to organise the coup led by:
- Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, then chief of staff of the UAE armed forces and current crown prince of Abu Dhabi
- Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, then crown prince of Bahrain
- Sheikh Sultan bin AbdulAziz, then Saudi minister of defence
- Omar Suleiman, the late Egyptian intelligence chief and former vice president of Egypt
“A group of men were ordered to raid the house of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa and place him under siege at his home, which was on the Al Rayyan Road [in Doha],” one of the coup plotters told Al Jazeera.
While the operation was planned at 5am on February 16, 1996, those carrying out the operation were ordered by the current Emirati Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed to execute the plan two days prior to prevent the operation from being uncovered.
After taking control over military and security installations, the coup plotters were to give the green light for militias to enter Qatar from across the Saudi border.
But the planned coup d’etat was discovered and thwarted.
“If they had seized control, and if the forces had come in – whether from the UAE or the Emirates or Bahrain – they would have had no problem killing whoever they see in the street. They have nothing to lose,” retired Brigadier-General Shaheen al-Sulaiti told Al Jazeera.
The airing of the documentary comes eight months into a blockade placed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which have accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” – claims Qatar vehemently denies.
The documentary garnered many reactions on social media on the hashtag #ماخفي_اعظم – the name of the Al Jazeera Arabic programme on which the documentary aired.
Things we learnt from #ماخفي_اعظم:
1- Blockading countries have been salty for TWELVE whole years
2- MBZ has always been and will always be the human version of a devil
3- Ramadan (holiest month of the year) is when these people think of doing the unholiest acts
— Maha Al-Ansari (@MahaAlAnsari) March 4, 2018
the truth has been revealed #ماخفي_اعظم
— َ (@amaal8_) March 4, 2018