BAGHDAD (AFP) - Gunmen kidnapped 26 members of a Qatari hunting party in southern Iraq, officials said on Wednesday (Dec 16), the second high-profile seizure of foreign nationals in the country in three months.
"Twenty-six Qatari hunters were kidnapped at about 3:00 am (0000 GMT) by unknown gunmen," according to a police major from Muthanna province, where the kidnappings took place.
A local council member from the province confirmed the number of people kidnapped but did not specify their nationality.
"Unknown gunmen in dozens of pick-up trucks attacked a place where Qatari hunters were located," the official said.
Two officials said that 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 said.
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, especially in the Shi'ite-majority south, over the Gulf countries' policies on the Syrian civil war and perceived complicity in the rise of the Islamic State group.
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.