The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking in late May of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post on Sunday.
It widely believed that comments published by the Qatar News Agency attributed to the Qatari emir were one of the factors that led to the current tensions between Qatar and its neighbors.
In those comments, al-Thani allegedly described Iran as an “Islamic power”, criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy towards Tehran and claimed his country’s relations with Israel were good.
Qatar immediately dismissed those comments and said the website of its news agency was hacked.
Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation, according to The Washington Post.
The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done.
The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified.
While Qatar had not initially named the parties responsible for the hacking of its news agency, it later accused “neighboring countries” which cut ties with it of being behind the cyberattack. It did not name any specific country.
In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post story was “false.”
“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article. What is true is Qatar’s behavior.
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 read.