Saudi Blocks Qatar News Sites as `Hack' Blamed for Iran Comments

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia blocked access to several Qatari news websites after they carried fake articles about Gulf efforts to isolate Iran, stories Qatari officials said were the result of a hack, exposing tensions among Sunni-ruled monarchies seeking to form a united front against the Islamic Republic.  

Qatar said hackers first posted a fake story on the Qatar News Agency website at 12.14 a.m. that included comments falsely attributed to the Qatari emir describing attempts to confront Iran as a mistake. They then took over the agency’s Twitter account to announce that Qatar was recalling its ambassadors from other Gulf countries and Egypt.

The reports, which were later deleted, were picked up by Saudi and Dubai-based media. Regulators in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates then barred access to the Qatari sites, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.

Qatari government spokesman Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani said the postings were false and the result of a hack of QNA by an “unknown entity.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the U.A.E. pulled their envoys from Qatar for about eight months in 2014, accusing the state of undermining regional security. Qatar’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in Egypt during the one-year rule of President Mohamed Mursi, had drawn fire from other Gulf nations that had clamped down on Islamist movements. The rift threatened to undermine efforts to integrate GCC economies, which supply about a fifth of the world’s crude oil.

Tensions have eased since then, with Qatar hosting oil talks between Gulf nations in 2016.