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Qatar Says Suicide Attacker At Theater Was an Egyptian

Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2005; Page A11

DOHA, Qatar, March 20 -- Qatari authorities on Sunday blamed an Egyptian national for a car bombing at a theater that killed one Briton and injured 12 other people in a rare terrorist attack in the tiny Persian Gulf state.

The suicide bombing came days after a man purporting to be al Qaeda's leader in the Persian Gulf region called for attacks on Western interests. It also occurred on the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but it was not clear if the two events were linked.

Qatari authorities identified a charred body at the site as that of the suicide bomber, Omar Ahmed Abdullah Ali. They said the Egyptian owned the car used in Saturday's attack on the Doha Players Theater in the northern suburb of Farek Kelab.

No one asserted responsibility for the attack on the theater, which is popular with Westerners and close to the Doha English Speaking School.

Ali worked as a computer programmer for the state-owned Qatar Petroleum Co., according to an employee of the firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ali, who was in his thirties, had worked there for five years and was married with two children, the employee said, adding that police had visited the company's offices Sunday and seized Ali's computer and other belongings.

In Cairo, a government official declined to comment on the bomber's nationality, saying only that the Egyptian Embassy in Doha was seeking further details.

Qatar, an energy-rich country with a population of about 800,000, is a close ally of the United States and home to the U.S. Central Command's forward operations in the Middle East. The command played a central role in the March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq.

Saleh Aoofi, a Saudi militant who is believed to lead al Qaeda in the Persian Gulf region, released an audiotape on Thursday that urged militants to attack Westerners in Qatar and other countries.

"To the brothers in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the Emirates and to all the lions of jihad in the countries neighboring Iraq, every one of us has to attack what is available in his country of soldiers, vehicles and air bases of the crusaders and the oil allocated for them," Aoofi said, according to an excerpt of the tape published in Sunday's London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

A Briton, Jonathan Adams, was killed in the attack, according to the British Foreign Office. A dozen others, including six Qataris, a Briton, an Eritrean and a Somali, were injured, treated at a hospital and released, Qatari officials said.

The British Foreign Office said British authorities were assisting Qatar in the bombing investigation.

French President Jacques Chirac also condemned the "vile terrorist attack." He was to send a team of experts to help with the investigation.

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