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24 May, 2017 12:44

Qatar: We were hacked into praising rivals Iran & Israel

Qatar: We were hacked into praising rivals Iran & Israel

A Qatari state news agency report which criticized Saudi Arabia for fueling tensions with Iran has prompted a sharp response from Gulf nations. Doha has blamed unidentified hackers for breaking into the agency’s website and publishing fake news.

The allegedly fake report on the website of Qatar News Agency (QNA) cited Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar’s emir, as criticizing the latest increase in tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in a speech he gave to graduating military cadets. The emir also reportedly called Iran an "Islamic power'' and said Qatar's relations with Israel were "good."

The report published on Wednesday also said Sheikh Tamim spoke favorably about the Lebanese organization Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, while criticizing US President Donald Trump and saying he may not serve a full term.

Other Gulf nations reported the statements as authentic and rebuked Qatar for them. The authorities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also briefly blocked the website and cable broadcasting from Al Jazeera, the Qatar-sponsored global news channel.

“Qatar splits the rank, sides with the enemies of the nation,” Saudi Arabia's Okaz daily wrote.

Meanwhile, Doha blamed unidentified hackers for taking control of QNA’s website and publishing fake news. The website was inaccessible on Wednesday morning.

“The statement published has no basis whatsoever and the competent authorities in the state of Qatar will hold all those (who) committed (this) accountable,” Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari government’s communications office, said in a statement.

The hackers also allegedly took over QNA's Twitter feed and published remarks attributed to Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. The minister was cited as ordering the removal of ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE in response to their plotting against Qatar. The nation’s Foreign Ministry has since denied that the minister made any such comments.

The incident is especially embarrassing, coming as it does just days after a grand meeting of Arab leaders and US President Trump in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, which was meant as a show of solidarity in the face of threats from terrorism and Iran.

The situation is reminiscent of an eight-month falling-out between Qatar – which has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood organization – and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which consider the Brotherhood extremist.