Claims Russian hackers’ fake news sparked Qatar’s regional crisis

The number of countries severing ties with Qatar has increased, with Mauritania also backing the move.

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Trucks that should be streaming across the Saudi border, delivering vital food and supplies to Qatar, are banking up because of the worsening diplomatic crisis.

Qatar’s usually busy highways are all but empty after the Arab world’s biggest powers – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – cut relations with the Gulf nation.

Qatari planes are banned from landing or crossing their air space, forcing them over Iran.

Supermarket shelf supplies are already dwindling and these shoppers are starting to feel the impact.

“I am feeling that there’s shortage of fresh chicken.”

“The only shortage I can see is the milk. Otherwise, I don’t think there is any shortage or… nothing unusual ….”

About two million of Qatar’s two-and-a-half million population are foreign nationals.

The Philippines is refusing to send any more workers, concerned about the fate of the 140,000 already there.

United States President Donald Trump is claiming credit for the pressure being placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours, that accuse it of supporting terrorism.

Mr Trump has tweeted his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off”.

“They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar,” he wrote, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

His spokesman, Sean Spicer, later tried to soften the presidential statements against Qatar, which is at the centre of US military operations in the region.

“The President had a very, very constructive conversation with the Emir during his visit in Riyadh. At that time, he was very heartened by the Emir’s commitment to formally joining the terrorist financing targeting centre and showing their commitment to this issue.”

And there are now suggestions Russia could be behind the crisis, with claims a fake news report planted by hackers contributed to the chaos.

Qatar says the US has sent FBI agents to investigate the alleged hacking incident.

Qatar’s neighbours accuse it of supporting Islamist militants, a claim Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani denies.

“There is no support going to Al Nusra or al-Qaeda or others. Whatever is being thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation.”

That misinformation has fuelled the worst split between these powerful Arab states in decades.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, says Qatar must take several steps, including ending its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties.

“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard to its support for extremist groups, with regards to its hostile media, with regards to its interference in the affairs of other countries. And we have taken this step with great pain in order to make sure that Qatar understands that these policies are not acceptable and not sustainable and that they must change.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he hopes the various parties can negotiate a solution.

“We’re hopeful that the parties can resolve this through dialogue and we encourage that, that they do sit together and find a way to resolve whatever the differences are that have led to this decision.”