Qatar says state news website hacked, fake article published

Qatari News Agency (QNA) published Tamim's statements in Arabic on its Instagram account, which has a security system that is extremely hard to hack.

Ties between Qatar and other Gulf Arab states suffered an eight-month breach in 2014 over Qatar's alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group whose political ideology challenges the principle of dynastic rule.

Qatar has begun an inquiry into a security breach by hackers who posted fake remarks on its national news agency's platforms by its ruler purportedly criticising United States foreign policy.

The fake story quoted Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as saying Qatar had strong relations with Iran, Israel and the United States.

Statements attributed to the Emir of Qatar condemned the accusations against Qatar as a country supporting terrorism, despite the country's continued efforts in fighting against the so called Islamic State (IS) organisation, and he added that "Iran represents a regional and Islamic weight that can not be ignored, and it is not wise to escalate against it", asserting that Iran "is a major force to ensure stability in the region".

"Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that can not be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it", the ticker read at one point. The tweets were later deleted.

Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al Thani, the director of the Qatari government's communications office, issued a statement saying authorities had launched an investigation. He said Qatar "will hold all those committed accountable".

Following the statements, Al-Jazeera reported a statement by the head of QNA denying all the statements, clarifying that the emir did not give any speech on Tuesday, expressing astonishment at media outlets circulating the statements.

But the questioned story immediately was picked up by Saudi-funded satellite television networks overnight.

The latest reports stress that UAE banned the Qatari news websites on its cyber system and that Saudi, Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their envoys to Doha which indicates that the diplomatic escalation proves the depth of the political rifts among the Gulf countries.

This year's valedictorian, Ghada Khalifa Al Thani, gave an emotional speech: "One individual can not make a permanent change or development", she said.

Media regulators in Saudi Arabia and the UAE did not respond to requests for comments. The comments also go in line with recent criticism waged against the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in other state-sponsored media outlets such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arab and the London-based Middle East Eye.

Al-Jazeera said it was "studying the reports our channels and digital platforms have been blocked in certain countries in the region".

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