Qatari Hunting Party Held Hostage In Iraq Since 2015 Freed
Twenty-six hostages, including members of Qatar's ruling royal family, were freed on Friday (April 21) after being kidnapped and held for 16 months in Iraq, Iraq's Interior Ministry said.
The men were handed over to a Qatari delegation and left for Doha, the capital of the wealthy Gulf Arab state, a ministry spokesman said in a statement. It gave no further details.
In Riyadh, the Saudi foreign ministry said two of the group were Saudis, and thanked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for his efforts in securing their release, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
In December 2015 around 100 armed men seized a hunting party, including Qataris and other nationals, from a desert camp in southern Iraq. A Qatari royal and a Pakistani man were later freed.
The kidnapped were participating in a falconry hunt at a desert camp in the southern province of Muthanna, about 400 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.
According to the United Nations, there were children among those who were kidnapped.
Earlier this month a document came to light showing that a Qatari ruling family has paid $2 million USD to a U.S. security company to secure “proof of life” and ultimately free relatives that were among the hunting party.
The release of the hostages comes days after a deal was announced for the evacuation of civilians and fighters from four besieged Syrian towns. Britain's Guardian newspaper said Qatar had helped mediate the deal in exchange for the freeing of the hunters.