Al Qaeda's regional branch urged Muslims around the world to shun the soccer World Cup in Qatar, though it stopped short of threatening attacks or promoting violence in connection with the event, according to a statement reported by a monitoring group.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the militant group's Yemen-based branch, criticised Qatar for "bringing immoral people, homosexuals, sowers of corruption and atheism into the Arabian Peninsula" and said the event served to divert attention from the "occupation of Muslim countries and their oppression".
"We warn our Muslim brothers from following this event or attending it," said the statement, reported by the SITE Intelligence group on Saturday, a day before the tournament opens in a predominantly Muslim country for the first time.
World Cup organisers, in response to criticism over Qatar's human rights record including LGBT rights as well as social restrictions, have said that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome during the event.
Qatar, a small country of some 3 million, mostly foreign workers, has said that it trained more than 50,000 people to provide security during the World Cup, with foreign forces helping out under Qatari command.