US investigators believe Russian hackers were behind the hacking of state-owned Qatar News Agency last week, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigations sent a team to the capital, Doha, to assist Qatari authorities in finding out what happened.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, told CNN that the hacking of Qatar’s national news agency was “proved by the FBI”.
“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis is being based on misinformation,” he said.
“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.”
Though the FBI has not yet commented on the investigation, a spokesperson for Qatar’s embassy in Washington, DC told CNN that the country will release the results in the near future.
Last week, Qatar launched an inquiry into an unprecedented security breach, alleging “shameful” hackers posted a fake story quoting Qatar’s leader that sparked tension with Gulf neighbours.
Publication of the fake story, which hit Qatar’s official news agency website and Twitter account just after midnight last week on Wednesday, led to ripples of reaction across the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE both blocked Qatari-based news outlets, including Al Jazeera, from broadcasting in their territory in the wake of the stories’ appearance.
The hacking showed clips of the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at an official military ceremony with a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen showing the alleged remarks.
They included calling Hamas “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” as well as saying Qatar had “strong relations” with Iran and Israel.
“Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it,” the ticker read at one point. “It is a big power in the stabilisation of the region.”
Also mentioned were alleged “tensions” between Qatar and the administration of US President Donald Trump.
In addition, the Qatar News Agency’s hacked Twitter account carried a false story in Arabic apparently from the country’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, about Qatar withdrawing its ambassadors from several Gulf countries.
The reported FBI findings come at a time when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other countries have launched a diplomatic war against Qatar. Those nations cut ties with Doha on Monday and announced plans to deport Qatari nationals.
Since the crisis began, 85 percent of Qatar’s imports have been severed and food trucks at the Saudi border headed for the tiny Gulf nation were forced to turn around.
In a rapidly escalating situation, Trump on Tuesday backed the Gulf blockade.
The US president said on Twitter that his trip to the Middle East in May was “already paying off” as Gulf leaders followed through on their promise to take a hard line on the funding of militant groups.
He said “all reference” to funding extremism pointed to 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 said in a series of Twitter posts.