Qatar says media report reveals UAE role in hack that sparked crisis

Isaac Cain
July 17, 2017

A cyber attack on Qatar at the end of May, in which news and social media web sites carried false quotes attributed to Qatar's emir Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, was orchestrated by neighbouring United Arab Emirates, according to U.S. intelligence.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with and imposed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism.

Later that day, the official Qatar News Agency quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as criticising United States "hostility" towards Iran, describing it as an "Islamic power that can not be ignored", and calling Hamas the "legitimate representative of the Palestinian people".

The controversy started on May 23, when alleged hackers reportedly posted fake remarks on Qatar's official media platform criticising U.S. foreign policy and attributing the statement to the country's emir.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the BBC on Monday the Post's report was "untrue".

The Post reported that United States intelligence officials learned last week of newly analysed information that showed that top UAE government officials discussed the planned hacks on May 23, the day before they occurred. He said that the story "will die" in the next few days. He said: "The Washington Post story is not true".

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Two weeks later, the four countries cut all links with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and relations with Iran.

The Guardian reported last month that an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had concluded that freelance Russian hackers were responsible. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi [the former Libyan leader].

The officials said it was unclear if the UAE hacked the websites or paid for them to be carried out, the newspaper reported.

"What is true is Qatar's behaviour".

Fellow Gulf states had already rejected Qatar's explanation and said Sheikh Tamim's reported remarks reflected deliberate ambiguities in Qatar's policies that have undermined stability in the region. A few days later the four states launched their blockade of Qatar.

But its Gulf Arab neighbours and Egypt have always been irked by its support for anti-establishment movements and for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood that briefly won power in Egypt, which they regard as a political enemy.

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