UAE denies hacking Qatar news agency

The United Arab Emirates has denied it was behind the alleged hacking of Qatar's state news agency in May

Anwar Gargash, UAE state minister for foreign affairs
Anwar Gargash, UAE state minister for foreign affairs

The United Arab Emirates has denied reports it was responsible for an alleged hack of Qatari websites that helped spark a month-long diplomatic rift with Doha.

Anwar Gargash, UAE state minister for foreign affairs, said on Monday that a report in the Washington Post newspaper suggesting that the United Arab Emirates arranged for the hacking, is "not true".

"The Washington Post story is not true, simply not true," Gargash said.

According to the newspaper, US officials discovered last week that UAE ministers held a meeting on 23 May to discuss plans to hack Qatari government news and social media sites and post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

The hack, which took place the following day, preceded the current split in the Gulf between Qatar and a coalition of four states that are mounting an economic and diplomatic boycott against it.

Al Thani had been falsely quoted in May as praising Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs the Gaza Strip, and saying that Iran was an "Islamic power". He also appeared to make disparaging remarks about US President Donald Trump.

The four states – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain – imposed sanctions on Qatar on 5 June, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf monarchy, after accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies the accusations.

Gargash denied the hack could have precipitated the crisis, saying “this issue has been festering since 2014”.

The Washington Post gave no further details of how American intelligence had reached its conclusion, but it has previously been alleged that some of the boycotting states could be behind a hack of the official Qatar news agency. Qatar has previously asked US and British officials to investigate the source of the hack.

Gargash said the UAE would not escalate its boycott by asking companies to choose between doing business with it or Qatar.

But he gave no impression that the UAE was willing to abandon the blockade. Instead, he said the quartet intended to put the issue on the back burner to focus on trying to resolve the crises in Libya and Yemen.

“As the Qataris realise this is a crisis that will drag on, we will see them become a bit more realistic,” he said.

He also reiterated that the UAE and five other Arab nations had not written to Fifa to demand that Qatar be stripped of the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Swiss news network The Local said a fake news story quoting Fifa president Gianni Infantino had been posted on a copycat website on Saturday.

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