Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, block airspace

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Bahrain joined the group of the Arab countries, who have chosen to sever diplomatic ties to Qatar amid a deepening rift between Gulf Arab nations.Earlier, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain had announced they were severing diplomatic ties with Doha.

Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement early today 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.

According to BBC, the countries severing diplomatic ties with Qatar have accused the country of backing militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar has denied.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of Qatar.

The Saudi statement said that Qatar had collaborated with Iranian-backed militias.

Qatar called the decision “unjustified” and with “no basis in fact”.

Bahrain too 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.

Reuters news agency reported that Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia have given Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries,

Saudi also closed the border and halted air and sea traffic with Qatar, urging “all brotherly countries and companies to do the same”.

UAE-based carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai said they would suspend flights to and from Qatar beginning Tuesday morning.

It was not immediately clear how Monday’s announcement would affect other airlines.

What’s the controversy about

Al-Jazeera reporta that the dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries escalated after a recent hacking incident of Qatar’s state-run news agency. Soon after the hacking incident was reported, comments falsely attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, were broadcast in Qatar. In the purported comments, the Emir was had reportedly expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel – while suggesting that US President Donald Trump may not last in power.

Denying the charges, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday, “There are international laws governing such crimes, especially the cyberattack. [The hackers] will be prosecuted according to the law.”

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