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Russia's Arrest of Qatar Athletes Increases Tensions - 2004-02-29

Officials in the Gulf state of Qatar are calling for Russia to explain why two Qatari athletes were arrested in Moscow last week.

Newspapers in Qatar denounced the arrest of two Qatari wrestlers in Moscow as childish and a display of "mafia tactics."

The two men are members of Qatar's national wrestling team and were on their way to a tournament in Serbia when they were taken into custody at a Moscow airport. The Foreign Ministry of Qatar told state news media that officials are in contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry and are demanding an explanation for the arrests.

Last week, Qatar announced it had arrested two Russian men and charged them with murdering former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. The separatist leader was killed in Doha on February 13 when his car exploded shortly after he left Friday prayers at a mosque.

Russia has demanded the release of the two men, who they say are security agents who were in Qatar conducting anti-terrorism activities.

Russia has also accused Qatar of aiding terrorism by providing shelter to Mr. Yandarbiyev, who had been living in exile in Qatar for about three years.

Russia considered Mr. Yandarbiyev a top Islamic militant and had demanded the Chechen leader's extradition. The United Nations had included Mr. Yandarbiyev on its list of terrorists with alleged links to al-Qaida.