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.
Image source Al Jazeera
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.
Four Gulf countries are to discuss the Qatar crisis, a month after they severed ties with the state.
The meeting of foreign ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Cairo comes on the day a deadline expires for Qatar to accept a list of demands or face further sanctions.
The demands to Qatar including shutting down the Al Jazeera network and scaling down ties with Iran.
Qatar has called the list of demands “unrealistic and not actionable”.
On July 3, Saudi Arabia and its allies gave Qatar an extra two days to accept their ultimatum for restoring relations, after an earlier 10-day deadline expired.
The authorities in Doha have responded to the demands – but no details have been publicly released. Qatar has said the demands break international law.
On July 4, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani described the demands as unrealistic.
“It’s not about terrorism, it’s talking about shutting down the freedom of speech,” he said.
The four Gulf countries accuse Qatar of harboring Islamist groups that they consider terrorist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood – and giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera channel, which is funded by the Qatari state.
Qatar denies the accusations.
As a result of the sanctions, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying Qatar with food and other goods.
On July 4, Qatar announced plans for a steep rise in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity over the coming years.
However, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, quoted by Al-Jazeera, said: “The US secretary of state recently called upon the blockading nations to produce a list of grievances that was <<reasonable and actionable>>.
“The British foreign secretary asked that the demands be <<measured and realistic>>. This list does not satisfy that [sic] criteria.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the demands were proof that the sanctions had “nothing to do with combating terrorism… [but] limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy”.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said: “We assert our right to practice our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority.”
Qatar’s main import routes – by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from container ships docked in the UAE – have been disrupted and much of the surrounding airspace has been closed to its air traffic.
However, Qatar has so far avoided economic collapse by finding alternative routes.
Qatari citizens living in neighboring countries or with family living there have been hit harder, Reuters notes, because of ultimatums issued for them to leave.
Correspondents say there has been frustration in Washington over the time taken by the Saudis and others to formalize their demands.
At least three people have been killed after gunmen launched an attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali’s capital, Bamako.
Two gunmen have locked in 140 guests and 30 employees in “a hostage-taking situation”, the hotel’s US owners said.
The attackers entered the Radisson Blu Hotel, which is popular with expat workers, shooting and shouting “God is great!” in Arabic.
A Malian army commander told the AP news agency that about 20 hostages had been freed.
Hostages able to recite verses of the Koran were being released, a security source has told Reuters news agency.
Six staff from Turkish Airlines are staying at the hotel, and a Chinese guest told China’s state news agency Xinhua that he was among about seven Chinese tourists trapped there.
French newspaper Le Monde quoted the Malian security ministry as saying at least three hostages had been killed, AFP news agency reports.
In August, suspected Islamist gunmen killed 13 people, including five UN workers, during a hostage siege at a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare.
France, the former colonial power in Mali, intervened in the country in January 2013 when al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on Bamako after taking control of the north of the country.
“It’s all happening on the seventh floor, jihadists are firing in the corridor,” a security source told AFP.
Malian soldiers, police and Special Forces are on the scene along with some UN peacekeeping troops and French soldiers, the agency reports.
The US embassy in Bamako tweeted that all American citizens were asked “to shelter in place” and were “encouraged to contact their families”.
Some reports say about ten gunmen in total are involved in the attack.
The Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Radisson Blu, said it was in constant contact “with the local authorities in order offer any support possible to re-instate safety and security at the hotel”.
The UN force in Mali took over responsibility for security in the country from French and African troops in July 2013, after the main towns in the north had been recaptured from the Islamist militants.
Top al-Qaeda commander Nasser al-Wuhayshi has been killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, the AQAP group confirmed.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi’s death was announced by the AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in an online video, in which it said two other fighters had also died.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi was seen as al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and was a former private secretary to Osama bin Laden.
His successor was named in the video as military chief Qasim al-Raymi.
The Yemeni news group al-Masdar Online has previously reported that Nasser al-Wuhayshi was killed in an attack in Hadramawt province on June 12.
“We in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation… that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi, God rest his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers, may God rest their souls,” Khaled Batarfi, a senior member of the group, was quoted as saying on the video.
The Pentagon said it would not comment.
But it previously said that if the death were confirmed it would be the biggest strike on al-Qaeda since Bin Laden’s death in Pakistani in 2011.
The US State Department offered a $10 million reward for anyone who could help bring Nasser al-Wuhayshi to justice.
It said he was “responsible for approving targets, recruiting new members, allocating resources to training and attack planning, and tasking others to carry out attacks”.
Nasser al-Wuhayshi became head of AQAP when the Yemeni and Saudi branches of al-Qaeda merged in 2009.
New documents that were found at Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Pakistan during the 2011 raid have been released by the US intelligence officials.
Osama bin Laden was killed during the 2011 operation. During the same operation the US special forces recovered the documents that officials have branded Bin Laden’s Bookshelf.
As well as Arabic correspondence, there are English language books by Bob Woodward and Noam Chomsky, and others on economic and military theory.
More documents may yet be released.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said a “rigorous” review had taken place before the documents were released.
The documents – 103 papers and videos in all – include a number of translated letters, notes, and other material detailing al-Qaeda operations. Many of the documents also have a version available in Arabic.
In one of the letters, the al-Qaeda chief instructs one of his deputies to tell “our brothers” that they must remained focused on fighting Americans.
Their “job is to uproot the obnoxious tree by concentrating on its American trunk, and to avoid being occupied with the local security forces,” Osama bin-Laden writes.
Another letter mocks President George W. Bush’s War on Terror, with Osama bin Laden writing that it had not created stability in Iraq or Afghanistan. No date is included on the translation provided on the US government website.
There is also section entitled Materials Regarding France, which includes a number of academic reports and articles about the France’s military, politics and economy.
Also included is a document described as a “suicide prevention guide”, several English language books including Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, several maps, and a few video game guides.
The documents are being released in the wake of President Barack Obama’s calls for greater transparency, said Jeffrey Anchukaitis, a spokesman for the ODNI.
“The Intelligence Community will be reviewing hundreds more documents in the near future for possible declassification and release,” Jeffrey Anchukaitis said.
Some of the material that has been included in the trove was previously declassified for use in federal prosecutions.
In 2012, some documents recovered in the raid were released by the research wing of the US military academy, West Point.
The White House has admitted that two hostages held by al-Qaeda were accidentally killed by a US counterterrorism operation in January.
American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in the raid in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
President Barack Obama described it as a painful loss he profoundly regretted.
Two other Americans thought to be al-Qaeda members were also killed, one of them in the same raid.
Al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq was killed in that operation and Adam Gadahn, once regarded as a spokesman for the militant group, was killed in a separate raid, the White House said.
Unnamed officials told Associated Press the attack that killed the hostages was a CIA drone strike.
Barack Obama, speaking at the White House about the operation that killed the hostages, said the US had launched the raid in the belief the target was an al-Qaeda compound with no civilians present.
As commander-in-chief, the president said, he took “full responsibility” for the operation.
The White House said compensation would be paid to the families of the hostages.
Warren Weinstein’s wife Elaine said in a statement the family was “devastated”.
“Those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility,” she added.
Elaine Weinstein thanked several members of the US congress and unnamed officials from the FBI, but said the assistance received from “other elements of the US government was inconsistent and disappointing”.
She also criticized the Pakistani government and military who, she said, treated her husband’s captivity “as more of an annoyance than a priority”.
Barack Obama said the operation was in compliance with the White House’s counterterrorism protocols.
Warren Weinstein, 73, was abducted in Lahore in 2011, where he was working as an aid worker. Giovanni Lo Porto disappeared from Multan, Pakistan in January 2012. Both men were aid workers.
Saudi national Khalid al-Fawwaz, a former aide of Osama Bin Laden, has been found guilty of plotting the al-Qaeda bombing of US embassies in east Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people.
Khalid al-Fawwaz, 53, was convicted by a New York court after three days of jury deliberations.
Extradited from the UK to the US in 2012, Khalid al-Fawwaz was found guilty on four conspiracy counts and now faces a possible life sentence.
Khalid al-Fawwaz has been described as Osama Bin Laden’s spokesman in London.
A statement from Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the defendant “played a critical role for al-Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America”.
There were a dozen Americans among the dead after US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania were bombed in 1998.
He was arrested in London in the same year as the bombings and extradited 14 years later.
Preet Bharara described Khalid al-Fawwaz as one of Osama Bin Laden’s “original and most trusted lieutenants” who was the leader of an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, then later acted as Bin Laden’s “media adviser” in London.
One of his roles, Preet Bharara said, was to ensure Osama Bin Laden’s threats against the US were distributed and noticed across the globe.
“Murderous words lead to murderous action,” assistant Attorney Nicholas Lewin told jurors.
The trial, which lasted a month under very heavy security in Manhattan, did not feature any testimony from the defendant.
When the verdict was read out, Khalid al-Fawwaz stood expressionless.
Five other people have already been convicted in New York for the embassy attacks.
9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has claimed members of the Saudi royal family helped fund the 2001 attacks.
Al-Qaeda’s Zacarias Moussaoui, who is imprisoned in Colorado for his role in the 9/11 attacks, gave testimony in October to lawyers for victims suing Saudi Arabia.
His statement came to light when it was filed in court this week in response to a Saudi bid to drop the lawsuit.
Saudi Arabia has rejected the accusation from a “deranged criminal” with no credibility.
They have made several attempts for the lawsuit to be dropped.
In a rare interview for an inmate at a high security “supermax” prison, Zacarias Moussaoui said “extremely famous” Saudi officials, including Prince Turki al-Faisal Al Saud, a former Saudi intelligence chief, were funding al-Qaeda from the late 1990s.
Zacarias Moussaoui also claimed to have met a Saudi official in Afghanistan who worked in the US embassy.
The two men were later supposed to travel to Washington to find a location “suitable to launch a stinger [missile] attack” on Air Force One, he said.
His claims, made under oath, have not been verified.
Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested weeks before the 9/11 attacks on immigrations charges and was in prison at the time of the attacks. He had taken flying lessons in Minnesota and had been wired money by an al-Qaeda affiliate.
In court at his sentencing, Zacarias Moussaoui said he had been part of a grandiose plot to fly a Boeing 747 into the White House.
However, testimony from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – also in US custody – was used by Zacarias Moussaoui’s defense lawyers to undercut his claims during trial.
Families of 9/11 victims allege that Saudi Arabia and a government-affiliated charity knowingly provided funding and other material support to al-Qaeda that helped it carry out the attacks.
Plaintiffs include families of the nearly 3,000 people killed, as well as insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses.
Human rights groups and the United Nations have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in what a Senate report called the “brutal” CIA interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects.
A top UN human rights envoy said there had been a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level”.
The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives.
President Barack Obama said it was now time to move on.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson said that senior officials from the administration of George W. Bush who planned and sanctioned crimes must be prosecuted, as well as CIA and US government officials responsible for torture such as waterboarding.
“As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Ben Emmerson said in a statement made from Geneva.
“The US attorney general is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said that the CIA’s actions were criminal “and can never be justified”.
“Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of officials, torture will remain a <<policy option>> for future presidents,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the attorney general should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct “an independent and complete investigation of Bush administration officials who created, approved, carried out and covered up the torture program”.
“The crime of torture has no statute of limitations when torture risks or results in serious injury or death, and the US government has the obligation under international law to investigate any credible evidence that torture has been committed,” an ACLU statement said.
“If there’s sufficient evidence of criminal conduct… The offenders should be prosecuted. In our system, no one should be above the law, yet only a handful of mainly low-level personnel have been criminally prosecuted for abuse. That is a scandal.”
CIA torture report key findings:
None of 20 cases of counterterrorism “successes” attributed to the techniques led to unique or otherwise unavailable intelligence
The CIA misled politicians and public
At least 26 of 119 known detainees in custody during the life of the program were wrongfully held, and many held for months longer than they should have been
Methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, often standing or in painful positions
Saudi al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was kept confined in a coffin-sized box for hours on end
Waterboarding and “rectal hydration” were physically harmful to prisoners, causing convulsions and vomiting
According to a US Senate report, the CIA carried out “brutal” interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks.
The summary of the report, compiled by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the CIA misled Americans about what it was doing.
The information the CIA collected this way failed to secure information that foiled any threats, the report said.
In a statement, the CIA insisted that the interrogations did help save lives.
“The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” Director John Brennan said in a statement.
However, the CIA said it acknowledged that there were mistakes in the program, especially early on when it was unprepared for the scale of the operation to detain and interrogate prisoners.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
The program – known internally as the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program – took place from 2002 to 2007, during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Suspects were interrogated using methods such as waterboarding, slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold and sleep deprivation.
Introducing the report to the Senate, Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein described the CIA’s actions as a stain on US history.
“The release of this 500-page summary cannot remove that stain, but it can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it’s wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes,” Dianne Feinstein said.
“Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” she added.
Earlier, President Barack Obama responded to the report, saying the methods used were inconsistent with US values.
“These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners,” he said in a statement.
Reacting to the release of the report summary, the Senate Republican leaders insisted that the methods used helped in the capture of important suspects and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“Claims included in this report that assert the contrary are simply wrong,” Senators Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss said in a joint statement.
The Senate committee’s report runs to more than 6,000 pages, drawing on huge quantities of evidence, but it remains classified and only a 480-page summary has been released.
Barack Obama halted the CIA interrogation program when he took office in 2009.
Earlier this year, the president said that in his view the methods used to question al-Qaeda prisoners amounted to torture.
Publication of the report had been delayed amid disagreements in Washington over what should be made public.
Luke Somers’ family has appealed in a video to al-Qaeda militants in Yemen to “show mercy” and release him.
In the online statement, the mother of the UK-born American hostage, Paula Somers, says: “Please… give us an opportunity to see our Luke again.”
A man identifying himself as Luke Somers, who was abducted in 2013, appeared in a separate video on December 3, saying his life was in danger and asking for help.
The US has revealed it tried to rescue Luke Somers in November 2014.
“Regrettably, Luke was not present, though hostages of other nationalities were present and were rescued,” the National Security Council said on December 4.
In a video posted on YouTube, Luke Somers’ mother and brother said he was “only trying to do good things for the Yemeni population”.
“Luke is only a photojournalist and is not responsible for any actions the US government has taken,” his brother, Jordan, said.
Noting that her son “appears healthy” in his captors’ video, Paula Somers said: “We thank you for that.”
Luke Somers, 33, worked as a journalist and photographer for local news organizations and his material appeared on international news outlets.
In the video released on December 3, a member of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) threatens to kill Luke Somers unless unspecified demands are met.
In a statement afterwards, the White House said President Barack Obama had authorized a rescue operation to free Luke Somers and other hostages last month, but that he was not present at the time of the raid.
On November 25, US and Yemeni forces rescued six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian being held by AQAP in an operation at a mountain cave in the remote Hajr al-Sayar district of Hadramawt province. Seven militants were reportedly killed.
AQAP’s threat to kill Luke Somers follows the murder of five Western hostages – including three Americans – since August by the Islamist militant group Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Obama administration has been criticized for not paying ransoms, not allowing hostage families to speak out and not taking opportunities to negotiate.
AQAP is regarded by the US as one of the deadliest offshoots of al-Qaeda.
The group is based in eastern Yemen and has built up support amid the unrest which has beset the impoverished country since the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.
The trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith has begun in New York.
The prosecutor has said Sulaiman Abu Ghaith used the “murderous power of his words” to rally others against America after the 9/11 attacks.
The statement came during opening arguments in the terrorism trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who once served as al-Qaeda’s spokesman.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48, has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to kill Americans.
The Kuwaiti national was brought to New York from Turkey last year.
Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith once served as al-Qaeda’s spokesman
Prosecutors say Sulaiman Abu Ghaith appeared in videos with Osama bin Laden the day after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington DC that killed almost 3,000, calling for jihad against “the Jews, the Christians and the Americans”.
Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Lewin described Sulaiman Abu Ghaith as a fiery orator who had spoken to those training in al-Qaeda camps in the months before the attacks in order to inspire them.
Nicholas Lewin said Sulaiman Abu Ghaith had agreed to appear in the group’s videos to call for further violence “while our buildings still burned”.
The Kuwaiti imam is married to the late al-Qaeda leader’s eldest daughter, Fatima. He is the highest-ranking al-Qaeda official to stand trial in the US since the 9/11 attacks.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was turned over to US officials in Jordan in 2013 after being deported from Turkey.
On Wednesday, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith’s lawyer mocked the prosecution’s opening statement.
“You’ve just been to the movies ladies and gentlemen,” Stanley Cohen said.
“At the end of the day, there’s really no evidence. There is the substitution for evidence with fright and alarm.”
He told them some of what Sulaiman Abu Ghaith had said was “dumb. It’s stupid”.
The Obama administration’s decision to try Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in civilian court had been criticized by Republicans.
A New York Times in-depth report found no proof that al-Qaeda or any international terrorist groups played any role in the Benghazi attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
A senior Obama administration official said the White House does not dispute the article published Saturday about the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The six-part report goes on to say that an American-made video mocking Islam largely triggered the attack, which was not well-planned.
“The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi,” the Times report reads, referring to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.
A New York Times in-depth report found no proof that al-Qaeda or any international terrorist groups played any role in the Benghazi attack
“And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
The Times said its investigation took months and was “centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context.”
It is not surprising the White House would welcome this report. Since the attack, Republicans have accused the Obama administration of downplaying the perpetrators’ links to al-Qaeda for political gain. The attack took place during the last leg of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Then UN Ambassador Susan Rice (now the national security advisor) became a lightning rod of criticism after appearing on all the Sunday talk shows shortly after the Benghazi attack and arguing it was the result of the American-made video.
Republicans have also held several hearings into the administration’s handling of the attack and its aftermath.