US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news in Qatar: report


U.S. officials believe that Russian hackers planted a fake news story in Qatar’s state news agency, contributing to tensions among key U.S. allies in the Gulf, CNN reported Tuesday, citing U.S. officials.

The FBI sent investigators to Doha recently to aid the Qatari government in probing the reported incident, officials told CNN.

U.S. officials said that intelligence indicated Russian hackers were behind the intrusion that Qatar’s government reported two weeks ago, according to the network.

Tensions in the region have run high in recent days, with four Arab nations cutting off diplomatic ties and closing all land, sea and air borders with Qatar this week, citing Qatar’s alleged support for terror groups and its relations with Iran.


Qatar has largely blamed the fake news story for the latest diplomatic crisis.

“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN.

“Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI,” al-Thani added.

The nation first reported the alleged hack of its state media outlet Qatar News Agency in late May, which resulted in a purported fake story being posted about controversial statements made by the ruling emir of Qatar appearing to positive toward Iran and Israel. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates blocked Qatari media over the statements.

Officials told CNN that Russia’s goal in the hack appeared to be to cause divides among the U.S. and its allies. It is unclear whether the hacks were traced to crime groups or Russian intelligence services.

The report comes amid continued scrutiny over Russia’s foreign cyber activities, including interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

President Trump on Tuesday shocked much of Washington when he took credit for the decision of Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations to break off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding …. extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” Trump tweeted. 

The Pentagon on Tuesday said it couldn’t square Trump’s tweets about Qatar on terrorism with its own statement emphasizing the country’s commitment to regional security. 

This post has been updated.


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