US security agencies believe Russian hackers planted a fake news
report in Qatar’s state news
agency that contributed to a diplomatic crisis among Washington’s Arab allies in the Persian Gulf.
Intelligence gathered by the FBI indicates that Russian hackers were behind the cyber attack on the Qatar News Agency that was first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, CNN reported Wednesday, citing US officials.
The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, according to the news network, citing US and Qatari officials.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN the FBI has confirmed the hack and the planting of fake news.
US intelligence agencies have previously accused Russia
of the same cyber-hacking measures to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected what he called CNN’s “fake” reporting.
“It’s another lie that was published,” Peskov told reporters. “Unfortunately, our colleagues from CNN again and again publish references to unnamed sources in unnamed agencies, etc, etc. These streams of information have no connection with the reality. It’s so far away from the reality. Fake is a fake.”
A picture taken on June 5, 2017 shows a man walking past the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major Persian Gulf states and gas-rich Qatar. (AFP photo)
The split among the Arab states erupted last month after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia where he accused Iran of “destabilizing interventions” in Arab lands.
Trump said Tuesday that leaders of Saudi Arabia and its regional allies had warned him that Qatar was funding “radical ideology” after he demanded they stop financing militant groups.
Trump made the comments on Twitter after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and several other countries cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over allegations that Doha is sponsoring terrorism and destabilizing the region.
The rift between Qatar and its Arab neighbors has plunged the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a diplomatic crisis.
Late last month, Qatar’s state-run news agency released comments attributed to Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in which he described Iran as a force for stability and accused the Saudis of promoting extremism.
Afterwards, Saudi Arabia and the UAE blocked access to Qatari media, including Al Jazeera, and Egypt accused the international news channel of “inciting terrorism” and “fabricating news.”
Faced with the backlash, the Qatari government was quick to claim that hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the “fake news.”
Doha has long faced criticism from its Arab neighbors over its support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Back in 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest at what they called Doha’s “interference in their internal affairs.”