Egypt blocks 21 websites including Al Jazeera - security sources

Posted May 25, 2017

Qatar has blamed hackers for a story on its state news agency website that quoted the emir as criticising USA "hostility" towards Iran.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia blocked access to the Al-Jazeera website on Wednesday, in response to statements published on QNA, the official Qatari News Agency, reporting that Qatar ordered the withdrawal of its ambassador from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.

The report published on Wednesday also said Sheikh Tamim spoke favorably about the Lebanese organization Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, while criticizing US President Donald Trump and saying he may not serve a full term.

Qatar quickly and repeatedly blamed the comments on the purported hack.

"These outlets should have stopped propagating and commenting on these statements [attributed to the emir] once it was confirmed that they were unfounded", read the statement.

The security source said legal action would be taken against the websites, MENA reported.

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Qatar's state news agency on Wednesday claimed that its website and Twitter account had been hacked and that comments by the emir criticising aspects of U.S. and Arab Gulf foreign policy towards Iran had been faked, causing confusion in Gulf states. A story had run earlier on the agency's website quoting a speech by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar's ruler.

Cairo accuses Qatar of supporting the Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt in 2013 when the military removed elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule. The development prompted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to respond by blocking Qatari media, including broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

"The statement published has no basis whatsoever, and the competent authorities in the State of Qatar will hold all those [involved] accountable". It declined to comment further. Western officials also have accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like al-Qaida's branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

The statement attributed to the emir focused on sensitive regional political issues with other nations in the region, including Iran and Israel, and also Doha's relationship with new US President Donald Trump.

Qatar has hosted some senior Hamas figures, including Khaled Meshaal, who was leader of the group until earlier this month. "Qatar likes to write this off as a campaign based on lies and ulterior motives, but if Qatar didn't has the sort of problematic record it has, it wouldn't be the target for this".