Qatari Used Influence With al-Qaida to Help Free Journalist

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 06:20 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Qatar used its influence with the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to gain the release of U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who had been held hostage for almost two years, The Washington Post reported.

The efforts by the energy-rich country, which has ties with Islamist groups from the Taliban to Hamas, were made at the discreet behest of the Obama administration, according to the newspaper.

Publicly, Qatar said it interceded at the "direct request" of the Curtis family. The hostage takers had purportedly demanded 25 million euros, though Doha insists it did not pay ransom. Qatar also played a role in the deal that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Post reported.

David Bradley, publisher of the National Journal and The Atlantic, also played a role in the episode, the Post said. He told the newspaper he was approached by a Curtis family friend who asked him to use his influence. Bradley worked with an unnamed retired FBI agent with al-Qaida-related experience. It was the agent who brought Ghanim Khalifa al-Kubaisi, Qatar's intelligence chief into the picture.

Bradley and the ex-FBI agent met with Kubaisi in Doha. He told them that the operation could jeopardize his agents and required the approval of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

When Kubaisi's agents eventually located Curtis, "his great worry was he would be accused of paying a ransom," Bradley told the Post. "The U.S. government won't pay a ransom and didn't want him to pay a ransom. The Qataris felt they were in a box."

"You're dealing with a situation where you have so many shades of bad," the ex-agent told the Post.

On Saturday morning, the jihadists turned Curtis over to the United Nations in Syria, which transferred him to U.S. authorities waiting on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.

The Curtis family said it was "deeply grateful" for Qatar's help. Doha announced it acted "out of Qatar's belief in the principles of humanity and its keenness on the lives of individuals and their right to freedom and dignity," the Post reported.

On Sunday, the "beyond elated" reporter spoke to his mother Nancy Curtis from Tel Aviv, telling her, "Mom, they're treating me so well. I am in a fantastic hotel. I can have a beer. There are women here," the Post reported.

U.S. officials believe Qatar has stopped directly funding Jabhat al-Nusra, leaving that task to private Qataris, according to the Post.

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