UAE denies hacking Qatar news agency

American intelligence officials have confirmed Qatar's suspicions that the United Arab Emirates hacked into the peninsula state's news agency and planted a fake news story to trigger a diplomatic row.

U.S. spies accused the UAE of infiltrating the sites to plant fake news and provoke one of the worst diplomatic rifts in recent Middle East history.

The story - in which Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani praises Iran - was a pretext for the current crisis between Qatar and several Arab countries, the Post reports.

The spat has wiped billions off stock values, separated families and raised doubt about Arab solidarity in the fight against Islamic State.

The Post reported that United States intelligence officials learned last week of newly analysed information that showed that top UAE government officials discussed the planned hacks on May 23, the day before they occurred.

So far Qatar has criticized the hack as a violation of worldwide agreements, and the UAE has blanketly denied involvement, but interestingly there has been no real comment from Saudi Arabia, who is clearly leading the blockade against Qatar.

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba also denied the report in a statement, saying it was "false", the Post said. The officials were quoted as saying it was unclear if the UAE had hacked the sites itself or paid for them to be hacked. The remarks posted on Qatari government news websites criticised attempts to isolate Iran.

The reports plunged the region into a diplomatic maelstrom that continues to ravage relations in the region.

Gargash said Qatar has been supporting jihadist extremeism: "This is instead, first and foremost, about the support Qatar offered to the cause of jihadism across the Middle East, and for specific individuals and organisations, including some linked to Al Qaeda", he said.

The countries accuse Doha of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

In the meantime, Qatar's neighbors have banned its aircraft from their airspace, among other measures, and the wealthy natural gas producer has had to find alternative sources for the food imports on which it relies.

Initially the U.S. seemed to have taken sides with them against Qatar in the dispute, President Trump accusing the Qataris of funding terrorism "at the highest level".

Vanessa Coleman

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