Doha says United States media report showed UAE attack on Qatar's news agency

Fernando Stephens
July 17, 2017

The United Arab Emirates arranged for Qatari government social media and news sites to be hacked in late May in order to post false quotes linked to Qatar's emir, prompting the Qatar-Gulf diplomatic crisis, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing U.S. intelligence officials.

The report said senior members of the Emirati government discussed the hacking plan a day before a story appeared on the official Qatar News Agency quoting Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, allegedly praising Iran and saying Qatar has a good relationship with Israel.

Qatar has maintained its emir never made the remarks and that the quotes were planted by hackers.

The United Arab Emirates was not responsible for an alleged hack of Qatari websites that helped spark a month-long diplomatic rift with Doha, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs has said. "But we can not have a member who is undermining us and supporting extremism", Gargash said during a speech at the Chatham House global affairs think tank in London. "You will see in the next few days the story will die".

US intelligence agencies confirmed in May that the UAE government discussed a plan to breach Qatar government websites, according to the Post.

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

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In an interview, Mohammed Cherkaoui, professor on conflict resolution at George Mason University, said the new Washington Post "bombshell" shows that the Gulf crisis "is moving from one escalation to another".

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt responded by blocking Qatari media.

It continued: "What is true is Qatar's behaviour". Qatar has previously asked USA and British officials to investigate the source of the hack.

Speaking at the Chatham House worldwide affairs think tank in London, Gargash repeated claims - denied by Qatar - that the country funds extremists. "Inciting violence, encouraging radicalisation, and undermining the stability of its neighbours".

But, he added, the four states would not escalate the boycott by asking companies to choose between doing business with them or with Qatar.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday returned to the United States from his shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf region to try to resolve the dispute.

Other reports by BadHub

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