BAGHDAD • Gunmen kidnapped 26 members of a Qatari hunting party in southern Iraq, officials have said, the second high-profile seizure of foreign nationals in the country in three months.
"An armed group driving dozens of pick-up 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 yesterday.
A Samawa police colonel said the hunters were escorted by an Iraqi security force, but that it decided not to engage a large number of gunmen.
The police colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "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 3am on Wednesday."
Two officials said members of Qatar's ruling family were among those kidnapped, but did not identify them by name.
Doha has not confirmed or commented on the kidnapping.
Two Iraqi officers providing security for the party were also seized, officials added.
Wealthy citizens of Sunni Gulf states venture to countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, to hunt with falcons without the bag limits and conservation measures restricting the killing of certain species that they face at home.
There is significant hostility in Iraq over the Gulf countries' policies on the Syrian civil war and perceived complicity in the rise of ISIS. Qatar is especially reviled on this front.
The kidnappings come a little over three months after gunmen seized 18 employees of a major Turkish construction firm working in Baghdad. The Turkish workers were later freed unharmed.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS