Gunmen kidnap 26 Qatari hunters in south Iraq
Unknown gunmen have abducted more than two dozen Qatari nationals from their hunting camp in a desert in southern Iraq near the border with Saudi Arabia, officials say.
The kidnapping took place early on Wednesday in Samawa desert in Muthanna Province.
“An armed group driving dozens of pickup trucks kidnapped at least 26 Qatari hunters from their camp in the area of Busaya in Samawa desert near Saudi borders,” Samawa governor Falih al-Zayady said.
The hunters were reportedly protected by two Iraqi officers who were also abducted. A wide-scale search for the kidnapped has been launched.
“We are talking about at least 100 gunmen armed with light and medium weapons [who] broke into the Qatari camp and abducted the hunters at around 3 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) on Wednesday,” said an unnamed Iraqi police colonel.
Iraqi officials have also said that members of Qatar’s ruling family are among the abductees, but have not identified them.
Hunters from various Persian Gulf countries travel to the area at this time of year for hunting.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has confirmed the incident and said it is working with the Iraqi government to secure the release of those abducted “as soon as possible.”
No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility for the abduction, but militants with the Daesh Takfiri terror group that controls areas in northern and western of Iraq often travel in large numbers in convoys in the region.
A little more than three months ago, gunmen seized 18 employees of a major Turkish construction firm working in the capital, Baghdad. They were later released.
Samawa is located on the Euphrates River, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southeast of Baghdad.