Qatar's former ruler flown to Switzerland after breaking leg

AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2015 5:21 AM
Qatar's former ruler flown to Switzerland after breaking leg

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar's former ruler was flown to Switzerland for surgery over the weekend after breaking his leg on holiday and is now recovering there, government officials said Tuesday.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who ruled Qatar after a 1995 bloodless coup until handing power to his son in 2013, is undergoing physiotherapy in Zurich and recovering, the Qatar Government Communications Office said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The statement said Sheikh Hamad was flown to Zurich on Saturday. Government officials declined to say how or where Sheikh Hamad broke his leg.

Airplane hobbyists and online airplane tracking website FlightRadar24 reported several Qatari flights landing in Zurich around that time, first from Morocco and later from Qatar, raising speculation Sheikh Hamad might have suffered his injury in Morocco.

The state-run Qatar News Agency has yet to report on his injury and surgery. However, it said Morocco's King Mohammed VI called Qatar's ruling emir on Sunday.

Swiss media reported earlier this week that Zurich's international airport opened afterhours to accept Qatari airplanes counter to local regulations in place meant to avoid disturbing those living around the airport at night.

Swiss civil aviation authorities later told the AP that the flights had been authorized by the Swiss air force, without explaining why they were allowed to land afterhours.

Sheikh Hamad, 63, is believed to have been in poor health for years. Under his 18-year rule, he transformed Qatar from a backwater into an Arab powerbroker that will host the 2022 World Cup and that's home to satellite news broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

Sheikh Hamad's son, Sheikh Tamim, now rules Qatar, a small, peninsular nation rich in natural gas and oil.

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Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap .