0127 GMT January 19, 2020
“The Qatar News Agency (QNA) website has been hacked by an unknown entity. A false statement attributed to His Highness has been published,” the Qatari government communications office said in a statement on Wednesday.
The hacking claim came hours after the QNA cited Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as criticizing renewed tensions with Iran, describing the country as an “Islamic power.”
“There is no wisdom in harboring hostility towards Iran,” the Qatari emir was quoted as saying at a military graduation ceremony.
The “hacked” report came after US President Donald Trump met Sheikh Tamim and other Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders on his trip to Saudi Arabia over the weekend, where he renewed his assertion that Iran was a leading “state sponsor of terrorism.”
According to the statement, the Qatari emir further hailed Doha’s “good” relations with Israel and said that Trump is facing legal issues at home amid accusations over his links to Russia, according to the statement.
He also said that Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement was the official representative of Palestinians.
Additionally, the QNA reported that Qatar was withdrawing ambassadors from Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over “tension” with Trump’s administration.
Elsewhere, the Qatari government communications office said an investigation would be launched into the security breach, adding that the comments attributed to Sheikh Tamim had “no basis whatsoever, and the competent authorities in the State of Qatar will hold all those (involved) accountable.”
A Qatari government spokesman also told Reuters that the country’s emir had attended a graduation ceremony, “however, he did not make any speech or give any statements.”
According to Arabic-language media reports, the emir’s false remarks were picked up by Saudi and UAE media, and sparked angry responses in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Saudi and UAE media channels also ran a series of critical reports against Doha on Tuesday, citing the fake news story.
Last week, Qatar complained that it was the target of “an orchestrated barrage” of criticism by unknown parties, who had accused Doha of supporting terrorism, in the run-up to Trump’s visit to the Middle East.
“No one has the right to charge us with terrorism just because they blacklisted the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist or rejected the resistance movements by Hamas or [Lebanon’s] Hezbollah,” the Qatari government statement said, calling on Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain to “revise their stances regarding Qatar.”
Qatar is known for its close ties with Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood movement. Ties between Doha and other Persian Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over Doha’s alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The country is also among major supporters of militant groups fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.