Qatar: 'Very relaxed attitude' toward security has ended

Monday, August 9, 2004

ABU DHABI Qatar has stepped up training of its security forces following threats of an Al Qaida-inspired attack.

Gulf Arab diplomatic sources said the training of the Emiri Guard Command has been facilitated by the United States, which maintains a significant military presence in the emirate.

In 2003, Qatar was plunged into the regional Islamic insurgency when an Al Qaida-inspired Chechen leader was assassinated in Doha. Two Russian security officers were arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

The Emiri Guard Command has been responsible for the protection of Qatar's royal family and political leadership, Middle East Newsline reported. The command has ordered an electronic warfare system to protect the emir's personal jet against enemy heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

"The training seeks to form an indigenous Qatari force that can respond to a range of terrorist scenarios," a Gulf Arab source said. "The very relaxed attitude that this country had toward security has ended."

Qatar has been one of several Gulf Cooperation Council states that intensified training of its security forces in 2004 amid the threat of Islamic insurgency attack.

The sources said the intensified Qatar training began about a year ago amid an alert of an Al Qaida plot in GCC states. They said Qatar increased monitoring of its foreign Muslim labor force, particularly those from Pakistan.

On July 18, the Qatari Armed Forces demonstrated their new skills during an exercise to mark the graduation of 29 cadets. The cadets completed a 15-week basic training course in security and protection of VIPs.

Qatari officials said the training at the Al Husseinia shooting range included weapons use, detection of explosives and booby-traps, wireless transmission and the use of helicopters in search and rescue operations.

They said several units of the military and security forces participated in the course, conducted by the Emiri Guard Command.

A Qatari government statement said the demonstration simulated an operation to rescue a VIP motorcade from an ambush. The statement said that within seconds a special team counter-attacked and secured the convoy.

[In an unrelated development, Yemen said it has defeated the Shi'ite insurgency in the north, which began on June 18 near the Saudi border and led by former parliamentarian Hussein Badreddin Al Houthi. Yemeni military forces were said to have captured the last insurgency strongholds on Thursday.]

In Saudi Arabia, authorities announced the capture of a leading Al Qaida insurgent. The insurgent was identified as Fares Ahmed Jamaan Al Zahrani, No. 11 on a list of the 26 most wanted fugitives sought by the Interior Ministry. Only 11 insurgents on the list still remain at large.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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