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QATAR Qatar denies report of deliberate mall blaze

Social networks flooded with report that it was Syrian-Iranian plot to spread chaos

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
June 4, 2012
Image Credit: EPA

Manama Qatar’s interior minister on Monday dismissed a report that claimed last week’s blaze at the Villaggio Mall was a deliberate act by an arsonist.

“There is no truth to the claim disseminated by foreign media that the Villaggio fire was a masterminded act,” the ministry said on its Twitter account.

Social networks in the country were flooded with a report that claimed the Syrian intelligence was implicated in a Syrian-Iranian plot to spread chaos in Qatar.

The report, posted on several websites, alleged that the blaze in which the 13 children and six adults, including two firefighters, were killed was a premeditated act of terrorism and that the Qatari authorities were able to identify and arrest the perpetrator.

According to the report that cited “well-informed intelligence sources” that it did not name, a Lebanese employee at the mall had locked the emergency exits before starting the fire.

The report added that most of the victims were Westerners and that their countries, infuriated by the tragedy, decided to expel the ambassadors of the Syrian regime in their capitals.

“We thank the interior ministry for denying the allegations that the blaze was premeditated,” Sadiq Mohammad Al Ammari, the editor of local Arabic daily Al Raya, wrote on his Twitter account.

He said that the denial would put an end to the rumours hitting Qatar. Authorities have been since last Monday urging everyone to avoid believing or helping spread rumours and allegations.

Doha last week launched an investigation into the fire and set up a commission to monitor developments.

Crown Prince Tamim Bin Hamad promised, during personal visits to offer condolences to the families of the victims, a full investigation into the tragedy and stringent actions.

Several mall executives were arrested or summoned as part of the probe.

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