TAMPA: Her friends say the last they saw of her was when commandos intercepted their sailboat in the Arabian Sea and dragged her away, kicking and screa­ming. A daughter of Dubai’s ruler, she had been trying to escape her homeland, saying she was being abused.

Since then, the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum are unknown, though she was likely brought back to the United Arab Emirates after the commando raid last month, said Herve Jaubert, a French ex-spy who helped organise her escape attempt.

Dubai’s government and Emirati officials did not respond for comment.

“I know it sounds incredible,” Jaubert said, but “it’s just the facts.” The allegations of a dramatic would-be sea escape intrude into the carefully controlled image maintained by the family of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who not only rules Dubai but is the Emirates’ prime minister and vice president. He is believed to have several dozen children from multiple wives. Some of his sons and daughters figure prominently in local media and online, but others are rarely seen.

Sheikh Mohammed has multiple daughters named Latifa. In recent weeks, one of those Latifas has suddenly appeared frequently in media. The appearances could be an attempt to muddy the picture as local media now make no mention of the Latifa who allegedly tried to leave.

Matters have since grown only murkier. A London-based for-hire advocacy group long critical of the UAE, called Detained in Dubai, has been promoting the case and says it has targeted by threats.

All this takes place against the backdrop of a Gulf-wide misinformation war linked to a diplomatic dispute between typically clubby Arab nations and Qatar. The UAE and its allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have boycotted Qatar since June. Each side has spread critical or false reports about the other; millions of dollars have been spent by all involved on public relations campaigns and lobbyists.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018

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