UAE ac­cused of ig­nit­ing Gulf cri­sis with ‘fake news’ hack

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Josie En­sor MID­DLE EAST COR­RE­SPON­DENT

THE United Arab Emi­rates has been ac­cused of hack­ing Qatar’s state news agency and plant­ing a fake news story that helped cause the diplo­matic cri­sis en­gulf­ing the re­gion.

Se­nior mem­bers of the UAE govern­ment had dis­cussed a plan to hack Qatari state me­dia sites on May 23, ac­cord­ing to US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

That day, the of­fi­cial Qatar News Agency quoted the coun­try’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad al-thani, as crit­i­cis­ing US “hos­til­ity” to­wards Iran, de­scrib­ing it as an “Is­lamic power that can­not be ig­nored”, and prais­ing Ha­mas, an ide­o­log­i­cal foe of other mem­bers of the Gulf Co-op­er­a­tion Coun­cil.

Shortly af­ter the com­ments were pub­lished, Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, an­nounced a diplo­matic and trans­port block­ade.

Qatari of­fi­cials said the agency had been hacked by an “un­known en­tity” and that the story had “no ba­sis what­so­ever”.

US of­fi­cials said they had in­de­pen­dent cor­rob­o­ra­tion that the hack was or­ches­trated by the UAE, ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post.

An­war Gar­gash, the UAE state min­is­ter for for­eign af­fairs, de­nied his coun­try had been be­hind the cy­ber at­tack. He re­peated claims – de­nied by Qatar – that the coun­try funds ex­trem­ists.

“You can­not be part of a re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tion ded­i­cated to strength­en­ing mu­tual se­cu­rity and fur­ther­ing mu­tual in­ter­est and at the same time un­der­mine that se­cu­rity,” he said. “You can­not be both our friend and a friend of al-qaeda. We’ve sent a mes­sage to Qatar. We are not af­ter regime change. We are af­ter a change of be­hav­iour.”

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