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Qatar has officially accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of hosting controversial hacking attacks on its national news agency in May, saying Doha is pondering an appropriate response.
General Ali Mohammed al-Mohannadi, who presides over an investigation into the May 24 hacking of the Qatar News Agency (QNA), said Thursday that state prosecutor was expected to take “the appropriate measures” in response to the findings of the probe, which indicated that the UAE was behind the hacking.
Mohannadi told a news conference in Doha that the “hacking” was undertaken “from two sites… in the Emirates”. He did not elaborate on what measures Qatar could take in response to the UAE’s alleged role in the issue.
“The hacker took control of the agency’s network, stole the accounts on its electronic site and uploaded fake information,” Mohannadi said.
The alleged hacking, which led to the release of remarks attributed to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the QNA website, sparked an unprecedented row between Qatar and Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf region. The remarks, denied by Doha, covered sensitive issues of politics in the Middle East region. The row later evolved into a full-scale diplomatic dispute after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations such as Doha’s support for terrorism, among others. Qatar has denied the allegations while maintaining that it is paying the price for its independent foreign policy.
Qatar’s official statement on the hacking case comes after reports earlier this month suggested that the UAE may have been behind the hack. The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, dismissed the reports, which were based on US intelligence estimates, as “purely not true”.
Also on Thursday, deputy head of Qatar’s cyber security department, Othmane Salem al-Hamoud, elaborated on more details about the hacking.
Hamoud said the alleged hacker “had found a flaw in the news agency’s network which was shared with another individual on Skype,” adding that the individual “then entered this breach in order to control the QNA network.”