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Qatar's former emir Khalifa dies at 84; three days mourning declared

Khalifa oversaw transformation of Qatar into energy-rich country where wealth from gas, oil exports transformed state
Lebanese Prime Minister Saeb Salam, left, with former Emir of Qatar Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha in 1972 (AFP/file photo)

Qatar on Sunday announced three days of national mourning after former Emir Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, who was deposed in a palace coup, died aged 84.

The former ruler, grandfather of the current Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, died on Sunday, according to an official statement from the royal palace.

During his time as leader from 1972 to 1995, he oversaw the transformation of modern-day Qatar into an energy-rich country - where the phenomenal wealth from gas and oil exports transformed the tiny Gulf state.

"His highness father Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani passed away on the evening of Sunday October 23, 2016, at the age of 84 years," read the official statement.

"His highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has ordered public mourning across the country for three days."

No further details were given about the circumstances of his death.

Among the first officials to respond to the news in Doha was Australian ambassador to Qatar Axel Wabenhorst, who tweeted his condolences to "the royal family and to all Qataris".

Many Qataris also took to social media to express their condolences.

Khalifa ruled Qatar until he was deposed by his son Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in a bloodless coup while on holiday in Switzerland.

Khalifa’s son had long been seen as the real power in the OPEC member nation in the years before he was overthrown, making the surprise move in many ways little more than a formality, the Guardian reported.

He was one of the first rulers of Qatar after it gained independence from Britain in 1971, taking over power from a cousin, and was also seen as a founding father of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the political and economic union incorporating six states in the region.

Prior to becoming the emir, he served as Qatar's prime minister, finance minister and also the country's education minister.

After being removed from power, the former emir lived in France and returned to Qatar in 2004.

The former emir had four wives, five sons and 10 daughters.