The United States intelligence officials believe hackers from Russia had breached Qatar’s state news agency to post a fake news report that is said to have prompted seven Arab nations to cut diplomatic ties with the Gulf state, CNN reported. If the allegations are proven, it would indicate Russia’s meddling in US’ foreign affairs.
Qatar had earlier claimed that Qatar News Agency was hacked and a false statement was attributed to the emir. Remarks attributed to Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, appeared to be friendly to Iran and Israel, and questioned how long US President Donald Trump would last in the office.
Experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly visited Qatar in the last week of May to analyse the alleged cyber breach. The intelligence gathered by the experts indicated that Russian hackers were behind the breach, unidentified US officials told CNN. However, the FBI has refused to comment on the matter.
Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the accusations made against the emirate is based on “misinformation”. “It was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency, which was hacked and proved by the FBI,” he told the US broadcaster.
The Qatari Government Communications Office has confirmed that the country’s interior ministry is working with the FBI and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency on the investigation. “The Ministry of Interior will reveal the findings of the investigation when completed,” Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, Director at Communications Office, told CNN.
Trump on Tuesday had claimed credit for the diplomatic isolation of Qatar. Trump said that his recent trip to West Asia was “already paying off” as regional leaders had followed through with their promise of taking a “hardline” against militant groups.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of radical ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!”, he had tweeted. “They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” he had said.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives, Libya and Yemen cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar, and suspended flights to and from the country. The UAE asked Qatari citizens to return home within 14 days. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority revoked the licence of Qatar Airways and ordered its offices to be closed within 48 hours.