Dubai, July 17 (IANS) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied that it was responsible for an alleged hacking of the Qatari state news agency and websites earlier this year.
According to the Washington Post, US officials discovered last week that UAE ministers held a meeting on May 23 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 countries that were mounting an economic and diplomatic boycott against it.
The four countries — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain — imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with it, after accusing Doha of financing militant groups. Doha denied the accusations.
Speaking at the Chatham House forum in London on Monday, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash denied the veracity of the claims, the Guardian reported.
He said: “The Washington Post story is not true. It is purely wrong. You will see in the next few days the story will die.” He denied the hack could have precipitated the crisis, saying “this issue has been festering since 2014”.
Among the false social media posts published during the hack were some made in the name of the Emir of Qatar, in which he appeared to make disparaging remarks about US President Donald Trump, praised Gaza’s Hamas leaders and expressed support for Iran as an “Islamic power”.
The Post gave no further details of how American intelligence had reached its conclusion, but it had previously been alleged that some of the boycotting countries could be behind a hack of the Qatar news agency. Doha had 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, the Guardian reported.
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. Gargash also denied reports that the UAE had threatened FIFA over continuing to allow Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.