The communications office of the government of Qatar announced on Tuesday that the website of the Qatar News Agency (QNA) was hacked and “a false statement attributed to His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has been published.”
The false statement had Sheikh Tamim, the ruling emir, referring to the terrorist organization Hamas as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” claiming Qatar has “good” relations with Israel and praising Iran as “a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored.”
“It is unwise to face up against it,” Tamim supposedly said of Iran. “It is a big power in the stabilization of the region.”
Reuters reports that other fake remarks include Tamim praising Iran’s client terrorist gang, Hezbollah, and predicting U.S. President Donald Trump “might not last long in power.”
The as-yet unknown hackers also gained control of QNA’s Twitter account and pumped out a string of tweets claiming that Qatar was withdrawing its ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates because they were all conspiring against Qatar.
Although QNA regained control of its website after about four hours, the comments planted by the hackers percolated into other media outlets, to the dismay of the Qatari government. One of those outlets was Qatari state television, which ran the fake remarks on a ticker at the bottom of the screen while displaying video of Tamim attending a military ceremony.
In the furor over Tamim’s alleged remarks, Saudi and UAE cable and Internet providers blocked transmissions from Qatari media, including the Al-Jazeera international operation based in Qatar.
“Qatar splits the rank, sides with the enemies of the nation!” thundered one Saudi newspaper headline cited by Reuters.
Saudi and UAE authorities disputed Qatar’s claim of hacking and insisted Tamim’s comments had been accurately reported, citing the repetition of those comments by Qatari state television and QNA’s unhacked Instagram account as proof.
The Associated Press notes that Qatar has been at odds with other Gulf nations before, particularly over Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood, including Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi in Egypt. Qatar has also been accused of supporting extremist groups including Hamas, and even al-Qaeda in Syria. The U.S. government has considered sanctions against Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
“The statement published has no basis whatsoever, and the competent authorities in the state of Qatar will hold all those who committed this accountable,” insisted Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed al-Thani, director of Qatar’s communications office.