Russian hackers may have planted a fake news story on the Qatar news agency’s website, CNN reported Tuesday evening. The hack may also have precipitated the crisis that saw six Arab countries sever their relations with Qatar.
Here’s more from the CNN report, which cited U.S. officials briefed on the investigation:
The FBI recently sent a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident, Qatari and US government officials say.
Intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, US officials say.
As I reported Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, and Yemen cut relations with Qatar over its alleged support of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Shia rebels in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The allegations aren’t new. Qatar’s foreign policy has long been a source of irritation for its Arab neighbors. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Doha from 2002 to 2008. In 2014, some of the same countries withdrew their diplomats from Qatar citing similar concerns. That dispute took nearly a year to resolve. But Monday’s move went further: It closed Saudi Arabia’s land border with Qatar, which could have severe economic consequences for the country.
The catalyst for Monday’s action was said to be a Qatari news report that quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as criticizing Saudi Arabia, praising Iran, and describing Qatar’s relations with Israel as “good.” Qatari officials dismissed the news as fake, adding the news websites that published the report were the victim of a “shameful cybercrime.” But the purported remarks were widely believed to echo official Qatari policy.