The UAE has denied it was behind the alleged hacking of Qatar’s state news agency in May.
The Washington Post cited US intelligence officials as saying the UAE had orchestrated the posting of incendiary quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir that he insisted were fabricated.
The incident helped spark a diplomatic rift between Qatar and its neighbors.
Qatar said the report “unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place”.
Swiss news network The Local said a fake news story quoting FIFA president Gianni Infantino had been posted on a copycat website on July 15.
The Washington Post‘s story cited unnamed US intelligence officials as saying newly-analyzed information confirmed that on May 23 senior members of the UAE government had discussed a plan to hack Qatari state media sites.
Later that day, the official Qatar News Agency quoted Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as criticising US “hostility” towards Iran, describing it as an “Islamic power that cannot be ignored”, and calling Hamas the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.
Qatari officials said the agency had been hacked by an “unknown entity” and that the story had “no basis whatsoever”. However, the remarks were reported across the region and caused a stir.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt responded by blocking Qatari media.
Two weeks later, the four countries cut all links with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and relations with Iran. The boycott has caused turmoil in the oil- and gas-rich emirate, which is dependent on imports by land and sea for the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million.
The US intelligence officials told the Washington Post it was unclear whether the United Arab Emirates authorities had hacked the Qatar News Agency itself or paid a third party to do it.
The Qatari government communication office said in a statement: “The information published in the Washington Post… revealed the involvement of the United Arab Emirates and senior Emirati officials in the hacking of Qatar News Agency.”
The Guardian reported last month that an investigation by the FBI had concluded that freelance Russian hackers were responsible.
US intelligence agencies declined to comment on the Washington Post‘s article, but the UAE’s ambassador insisted that it “had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking”.
“What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Gaddafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors,” Yousef al-Otaiba wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.
Qatar has acknowledged providing assistance to Islamist groups designated as terrorist organizations by some of its neighbors, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. However, it has denied aiding jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or ISIS.