Ministry: Two kidnapped members of Qatar hunting party freed in Iraq
With reporting by Heba Fahmy
However, more than a dozen members of the hunting party are still being held captive.
The ministry did not give any details on what led to their release or identify their kidnappers in a statement published this morning on QNA.
Some residents were quick to hail the release of the two men on social media, as well as express their hopes that the remaining captives would soon be freed:
Translation: We hope all of them are released (as well) and congratulations to those who were set free.
Welcome back and we hope we hear news about the release of the rest of them soon, this is evidence of the state’s tireless efforts to save them, May God protect them.
UN: Children among kidnapped
More than two dozen members of a hunting party were captured by approximately 100 gunmen, armed with light and medium weapons, during an early morning raid on their camp in the area of Busaya in Samawa desert near Saudi border late last year, according to media reports at the time.
While the Qatar government said the hunters had the necessary permits to be in the area, Iraq’s interior ministry said “the Qatari citizens were moving in vast desert areas without abiding by the interior ministry’s instruction not to move outside the secured zones.”
While no group claimed responsibility for the abduction, there is speculation that Shia militants in southern Iraq are responsible, the New York Times reported in December.
The incident drew condemnation from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who urged the Iraq government to “do everything possible” to facilitate their freedom.
Ban Ki-Moon’s statement suggested there were children among the kidnapped hunting party, which reportedly included 26 Qataris.
Shortly after the kidnapping, seven Qatari citizens, one Kuwaiti national and one man from Saudi Arabia were released.
QNA’s statement said efforts are still ongoing to release the remained kidnapped individuals, adding that Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is “keen on ensuring the safety of the citizens” and has “directed to exert every effort for the release of the kidnapped Qatari citizens.”