07/17/2017, 18.52
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UAE behind fake news that triggered Gulf crisis

Unnamed US intelligence officials make the claim, according to the Washington Post. The UAE has denied it, saying it “had no role whatsoever” in the affair. FIFA also denies reports that Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have called for Qatar to be stripped of the 2022 World Cup.

Doha (AsiaNews) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in May, planting a story that was used as a pretext for the current diplomatic crisis between Riyadh and Doha, this according to a report by The Washington Post.

For the US paper, UAE leaders are behind the row that has led to Qatar’s gradual isolation. However, the UAE Embassy in Washington released a statement calling the Post report "false" and insisting that the UAE "had no role whatsoever" in the alleged hacking.

The Washington Post report quotes unnamed US intelligence officials as saying that senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan on 23 May.

The following day, a story appeared on the Qatari News Agency's website quoting a speech by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in which he allegedly criticised anti-Iranian rhetoric in Gulf states.

The agency quickly claimed it was hacked and removed the article. But Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt turned on Qatar and isolated it.

According to some, the clash between Qatar and Saudi Arabia is due to Doha’s ties with Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s number one enemy in the region.

For others, the crisis is due a struggle among Sunnis, in particular, between Doha and Abu Dhabi. The controversy has also involved Qatar Al Jazeera's satellite channel, which Riyadh wants shut down.

Meanwhile, last week a fake news story appeared on a website claiming that Arab nations had demanded that FIFA strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup.

The story seemingly appeared on The Local website and said Arab countries were going to boycott the world cup in five-years’ time. It also quoted FIFA president Gianni Infantino, as calling Qatar “the base of terrorism'.

FIFA dismissed the story, but several major news organisations had by then picked it up.

In a statement, The Local said that it was a copycat website and it "neither wrote, posted nor removed that article".

The website where the false report appeared was registered last week to an address in Hawaii, however the personal details appear to be fictitious.

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