The United Arab Emirates was behind an effort to hack Qatari government news and social media websites, sparking a diplomatic dispute among Arab states, US intelligence officials say.
Newly analyzed information gathered by US intelligence agencies confirmed last week that the late May hack was orchestrated by the UAE, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
The hack sparked anger among some Persian Gulf states over comments attributed to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on sensitive issues, including Iran, Israel and the US, on May 24.
Immediately after the move, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt rushed to ban all Qatari media.
US President Donald Trump also rushed to back the Saudis, who had just clinched an arms deal with Washington worth of billions of dollars, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on all sides to deescalate.
“The nation of Qatar has unfortunately been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level,” Trump said at the time.
As The Post released the new report, citing unnamed sources with the American intelligence community, the Emirati ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, rejected the allegations as “false” by issuing a statement.
“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” read the statement. “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.”
Otaiba’s private email account has also been hacked by an apparently pro-Qatari organization, called GlobalLeaks.
According to The Post, “Many of the emails highlight the UAE’s determination over the years to rally Washington thinkers and policymakers to its side on the issues at the center of its dispute with Qatar.”
Ties between Doha and other Persian Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over Doha’s alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood.