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Qatar says UAE source of hacking that sparked Gulf row

Qatar had already said neighbours were behind hacking but on Thursday the head of an investigation blamed the UAE
Qatar officials speak to the media about the hacking at a news conference in Doha on 20 July 2017 (AFP)

Qatar on Thursday accused the United Arab Emirates of being behind the "hacking" of its national news agency that triggered one of the worst Gulf crises in years.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on 5 June and imposed a slew of sanctions on the emirate, including the closure of its only land border.

The alleged hack of the Qatar News Agency website on 24 May attributed explosive remarks to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

The remarks, denied by Doha, covered sensitive political subjects such as Iran, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, Israel and the United States.

Qatar had previously said its neighbours were behind the alleged hacking, but on Thursday the head of an investigation pointed the finger of blame at the UAE.

General Ali Mohammed al-Mohannadi told a news conference the "hacking" was undertaken "from two sites... in the Emirates".

"The hacker took control of the agency's network, stole the accounts on its electronic site and uploaded fake information," Mohannadi said.

The deputy head of Qatar's cyber security department, Othmane Salem al-Hamoud, told reporters that the alleged hacker "had found a flaw in the news agency's network, which was shared with another individual on Skype".

"This individual then entered this breach in order to control the QNA network," he said.

Mohannadi said the results of the investigation were submitted to the state prosecutor who is expected to take "the appropriate measures". He did not elaborate.

In June, Qatar's attorney general Ali bin Fetais al-Marri accused "neighbouring countries" of being behind the cyber attack, without being more specific.

The Sunni-ruled Arab countries that cut ties with Qatar accuse it of maintaining close ties with Shia rival Iran, and of supporting and funding extremists. Doha denies the claims.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post, citing US intelligence officials, reported that the UAE may have been behind the hack.

But the report was dismissed as "purely not true" by the UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash.

A CNN report last month said US intelligence officials believe Russian hackers planted a false news story that led to the Gulf dispute, but Moscow denied the report.

Qatar has said FBI agents were helping Doha investigate the source of the alleged hack.

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