Russian hackers are believed to have taken over a state-run news agency in Qatar and ran a bogus story that prompted four Middle Eastern allies to sever ties with the nation, according to a report.
U.S. officials believe Russians were the ones who breached the agency — two weeks after the Qatari government reported the hack — and have sent an FBI team to the capital city, Doha, CNN reported.
Investigators haven’t traced if the hackers were a criminal organization or an affiliate of the Russian government, sources told the network.
One official in the know said past information shows that “not much happens in that country without the blessing of the government.”
Trump says Middle East leaders told him Qatar funded terrorism
Intelligence agencies suspect Russia’s intent is to cause bad blood between the U.S. and some of its allies. And they now worry that Russia’s hacking went beyond its alleged attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, CNN reported.
The fake report attributed quotes to Qatari leaders that praised Iran and Israel while jabbing President Trump.
“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN. “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.”
Nations including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar this week, in part, because of the news report.
Here’s what happens in Qatar, recently cut loose by its neighbors
President Trump praised the nations’ decision, in spite of the fact that Qatar is a strategic location for the U.S. military. Nor did he address the hacking claim.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “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!”
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