The Washington Post, citing US intelligence officials, says hackers posted fake quotes by the emir, prompting a diplomatic crisis
WASHINGTON: The United Arab Emirates arranged for Qatari government social media and news sites to be hacked in late May in order to post fiery but false quotes linked to Qatar’s emir, prompting a diplomatic crisis, the Washington Post reported yesterday, citing US intelligence officials.
The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had been quoted in May as praising Hamas and saying that Iran was an “Islamic power,” the Post reported.
In response, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Qatar said in late May that hackers had posted fake remarks by the emir, an explanation rejected by Gulf states.
The Post reported that US 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.
The officials said it was unclear if the UAE hacked the websites or paid for them to be carried out, the newspaper reported. The Post did not identify the intelligence officials it spoke to for the report.
UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba denied the report in a statement, saying it was “false,” the Post said.
“What is true is Qatar’s behaviour. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors,” the statement said.
The US State Department declined comment in response to a Reuters query.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was previously known to be working with Qatar to probe the hacking.
Meanwhile, in London, a senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official said international monitoring was needed in the standoff between Qatar and its Arab neighbours, adding he saw signs that the pressure exerted on Doha “was working”.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf monarchy, accusing it of financing extremist groups and allying with Gulf Arab states arch-foe Iran. Doha denies the accusations.
“We need a regional solution and international monitoring,” said Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in prepared remarks he was scheduled to deliver on Monday in London.
“We need to be certain that Qatar, a state with US$300 billion in reserves, is no longer an official or unofficial sponsor of jihadist and terrorist causes,” he said, giving no further detail on the proposed monitoring.
Gargash said the memorandum of understanding signed by the United States and Qatar last Tuesday on the financing of terrorism was a positive development.
Washington and Doha signed the agreement as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Qatar on a three-day tour of Gulf-Arab countries to try to end a month-long rift between Western-allied Arab states.
Still, the four Arab powers have said the memorandum fell short of allaying their concerns, that their sanctions would remain in place until Doha meets their demands and that they would keep a close eye on Qatar’s efforts to fight terrorism funding.
“We do see signs now, however, that our pressure is working,” Gargash said. “We are ready for this process to take a long time.”