Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani, the former ruler of the Gulf nation of Qatar, has died. He oversaw the modernization of the energy-rich country until being deposed in a bloodless palace coup in 1995.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who ruled Qatar from 1972 to 1995, died on Sunday at the age of 84, the royal court said in a statement.
The current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the deceased ruler's grandson, declared three days of mourning.
Khalifa used Qatar's vast oil and gas resources to transform the tiny monarchy into a modern Gulf state, which has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
He was deposed by his son Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, then the defense minister, in a bloodless palace coup in 1995 while vacationing in Switzerland. The former emir then stayed in Europe until returning to Qatar in 2005.
In 2013, Hamad transferred power to his son Tamim.
Ties with the West
Khalifa is considered one of the founding fathers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the political and economic union that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
He ruled Qatar from shortly after it gained independence from Britain in 1971, taking over from his cousin in another coup.
During his rule, Khalifa strengthened political and military ties with the West, allowing US, Canadian and French warplanes to use his territory to bomb Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait.
After the war, Qatar reached a security pact with the United States. US Central Command's forward headquarters is currently based in Qatar, from where it conducts airstrikes on the "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq.
Khalifa had four wives, five sons and 10 daughters.
cw/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)