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QNA

Qatar’s Emir

An “unknown entity” has hacked Qatar’s official news agency, and is responsible for publishing a false statement attributed to the Emir, the Government Communications Office (GCO) has said.

QNA’s website was down for several hours after the incident, which appeared designed to harm Qatar’s relationship with its Gulf peers.

Hackers also temporarily took control of the news agency’s Twitter account in the middle of the night.

Tweets from hackers (in Arabic, shown in English via Google Translate)

In Arabic, it posted three tweets purportedly from Qatar’s foreign minister.

It cited him as ordering Gulf ambassadors to leave the country within 24 hours. The tweets also claiming that GCC nations were plotting to discredit Qatar.

Those messages have since been removed, and been refuted as false by officials.

Fake statements from the Emir

Earlier last night, the hackers published a QNA story that carried fabricated quotes from Qatar’s Emir, who spoke at a military graduation yesterday.

The GCO said the report “has no basis whatsoever.” Picked up by Al Arabiya and other outlets, it cited Sheikh Tamim as telling the crowd that Qatar has “tensions” with the new US administration.

The Emir is also falsely quoted as saying that “there is no wisdom in harboring hostility toward Iran” and that relations with Israel are “good.”

QNA’s original story does not contain any of those remarks, however.

Instead, it merely described the graduation ceremony. It began with the National Anthem and included a parade, as well as various military performances.

In terms of comments made by the Emir, it only quoted Sheikh Tamim as hailing National Service training, which first became compulsory for Qatari men in 2014.

One event attendee told Doha News that the Emir did not make any political remarks, and instead focused on congratulating all of the graduates.

Cybersecurity

In its statement about the hack yesterday, the GCO said that it was investigating the matter. It added that all of those responsible for the breach would be held accountable.

This is not the first time hackers have targeted Qatar.

QF hack in 2013, by Bashar Al Assad supporters

Last year, more than 1,200 names, phone numbers and bank passwords of Qatar National Bank (QNB) customers were leaked online by an unknown entity.

Qatar has also been the victim of several high profile Domain Name System Services (DNS) attacks in recent years, as well as hacks on social media accounts of big organizations such as Qatar Foundation.

The country has been shoring up its cyber-defenses in recent years. But hackers are also becoming smarter about how they infiltrate their targets.

Thoughts?

Paul Gillet

Photo of Manchester Arena for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar has “strongly condemned and denounced” an explosion which killed nearly two dozen people at an Ariana Grande concert in the UK last night.

The state’s foreign minister also issued a short statement on Twitter expressing “sincere condolences and thoughts” to the victims and their families.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on QNA this morning that it “reiterated Qatar’s firm stance on rejecting violence and terrorism regardless of its source and whatever its motives and reasons.”

Qatar rejects “all criminal attacks that terrorize the innocent people and contradict with humanitarian values and principles,” the ministry added.

It said the Gulf state stood in “full solidarity” with the UK government and expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the UK government, wishing the injured a quick recovery.

With 22 people dead, this is one of the deadliest attacks the UK has seen in recent years, and officials are treating it as terrorism-related for now.

The explosion took place in the foyer of Manchester Arena around 10:30pm, according to police.

Also, more than 50 people have suffered “shrapnel-like injuries,” the BBC reports.

Grande is a 23-year-old American pop singer, and many in the audience were teenagers and their mothers.

Following the attack, the artist, who was unharmed, tweeted:

Qatar reactions

In Qatar, people waking up to news of the tragedy reacted with similar horror:

Qatar and the UK are close allies, and the attack comes days after the government reaffirmed its stance against regional extremist groups.

Thoughts?

Abdul Baset Thajudeen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar is committed to defeating terrorism in all its forms, contrary to a recent “orchestrated campaign” that asserts otherwise, a government official has said.

In a statement this week, the director of the Government Communications Office (GCO) denounced a series of opinion pieces recently published in US media.

Recent op-eds on Qatar

Over the past month, more than half a dozen op-eds have urged a rethink of ties to Qatar. They allege that the government sympathizes with or overlooks the actions of extremist groups in the region.

The pieces ran ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which kicked off yesterday.

Qatar’s Emir is set to meet Trump in Riyadh today.

Championing causes

In one op-ed, published in US News & World Reports last week, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council highlighted Qatar’s relationship with Hamas, a group on the US’s designated terrorist list.

Salman Siddiqui/Twitter

Former Taliban office in Doha.

He also pointed out the hosting of Taliban leaders in Doha and Qatar’s purported ties to Syria’s Nusra Front.

Berman added:

“What drives Qatar’s duplicitous policy? Perhaps it is simply an attempt by the kingdom’s savvy emir to navigate the volatile politics of the region, where one keeps his friends close but his enemies closer.

Maybe, however, it is an accurate reflection of the Qatari government’s enduring conception of itself as a champion of radical Islamic causes, notwithstanding its close ties to the West.”

‘Absurd’ claims

The GCO’s Director Sheikh Saif Al Thani however called such claims “absurd,” saying that Qatar is actually a target for terrorist groups.

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“They threaten the peace and stability of our region and they put our national sovereignty at risk,” he said, adding:

“Which is why it is absurd to suggest that Qatar would either aid and abet those seeking to finance these extremist groups or harbor an Al Qaeda mastermind, as the anti-Qatar campaigners have recently alleged.”

Qatar actually helps fight terrorism in the region by participating in coalitions such as the US-led one against ISIS, Al Thani said.

Additionally, officials are working to support education, reconstruction and economic development programs throughout the Middle East.

Education Above All/Facebook

A child helped by Qatar non-profit Education Above All

Emir Sheikh Tamim previously said hopelessness due to a lack of opportunities was among the root causes of terrorism.

Foreign minister speaks out

Qatar has long fended off allegations that it supports extremist groups in the region.

However, government officials have previously pointed out that Qatar and other countries may have different definitions of what constitutes a terrorist group.

MBA_AlThani/Twitter

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

In a recent interview with Arab News, Qatar’s Foreign Minister took the same approach.

When asked why Qatar doesn’t classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as the UAE and Saudi Arabia do, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said:

“The question is whether the data or information that led these GCC countries to classify the organization as such is the same information available to Qatar?

No it is not, and thus we have not placed the Brotherhood on the terrorist list because we have not obtained proof that the Muslim Brotherhood present in the state of Qatar are planning terrorist activities against Qatar.”

Al Thani was also asked about why it does not honor Egypt’s demand for controversial scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi to be extradited.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi

To this, the minister said Al Qaradawi is protected by Qatari citizenship.

“The Qatari constitution does not allow for the submission of any Qatari citizen to foreign judiciary, be it in an Arab or non-Arab country.”

Thoughts?