Qatar says five suspects in news agency hacking detained in Turkey

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Hacking of Qatar's state news agency helped set the scene for the continuing diplomatic rift between Doha and its Gulf neighbours

Qatari officials speak to media about hacking allegations (AFP)
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Sunday 27 August 2017 22:59 UTC
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Qatar’s attorney general said Turkey has detained five suspects in connection with the hacking of Qatar’s state news agency in May.

The hacking helped set the scene for the continuing diplomatic rift that has since opened up between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours. 

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar in June over comments briefly posted on the Qatar News Agency attributed to its ruler in which he allegedly praised their arch-foe Iran.

Qatar said its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, did not make the statements and that hackers had posted a false story on QNA.

In comments published by QNA on Saturday, Qatar’s Attorney-General Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri said the suspects were being interrogated, without specifying their nationalities or any other details.

"Our friends in Turkey answered us a short time ago. Five people were detained, and they are being investigated. Qatari prosecutors are working with Turkish authorities to follow this case," he was quoted as saying by Qatari media.

Marri has said Qatar has evidence that the hack was linked to countries that have severed ties with Doha for allegedly supporting Islamist militant groups and advancing the agenda of their arch-rival Iran in the region, charges Doha denies.

The dispute has defied mediation attempts by the United States and Kuwait.

Qatar on Thursday restored full diplomatic relations with Iran in defiance of its Gulf neighbours who have demanded it curb ties with the Islamic Republic. 

Doha recalled its ambassador in 2016 when a Saudi diplomatic mission in Tehran was attacked after Saudi Arabia executed a Shia Muslim cleric, but Qatar now wants to strengthen bilateral relations "in all fields". 

Last month, Qatar accused its Gulf neighbours of breaking international law by hacking government websites and planting false information that helped to cause the continuing diplomatic rift in the region.

According to the Washington Post, US officials had discovered that ministers from the UAE held a meeting in May to discuss ways to hack Qatari government news and social media sites to post false quotes attributed to Qatar's emir. 

Since the imposition of the siege, Iran has helped Qatar cope with the trade and travel restrictions imposed by its Gulf neighbours since June.

Turkey has also played a pivotal role in helping to ease the impact of the siege inside Qatar after its Gulf neighbours cut ties. 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have all accused Qatar of supporting and helping spread Islamic extremism in the region.