Iraq kidnappers free hostages from Qatari hunting party

AFP , Wednesday 6 Apr 2016

File Photo: illustrative purposes only (Photo: Reuters)

-Kidnappers in Iraq have freed a Qatari and an Asian who were among more than 20 people abducted from a hunting party in the desert south last December, Qatar said on Wednesday.

The foreign ministry gave no details on the identity of the Qatari released. Reports at the time of the kidnapping said that those seized included members of the emirate's ruling family.

The ministry announced "the release of a Qatari citizen and his Asian companion who were kidnapped in Iraq," in a short statement published on the official QNA news agency.

"Efforts are still ongoing to free the rest of the 26 kidnapped," the statement said, without elaborating.

The ministry not specify the nationality of the Asian who was released, but Gulf hunting parties usually involve Afghans or Pakistanis.

The hostages were abducted in December when gunmen attacked their camp in a Shiite-majority area of southern Iraq close to the Saudi border.

Nine members of the party managed to escape and cross into nearby Kuwait.

There is widespread enmity towards the Gulf Arab states in Shiite areas of southern and central Iraq because of their support for Sunni rebels in the conflict raging in neighbouring Syria.

Iran-backed Shiite militias, which have a major presence in the region, have sent fighters to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The hunting party was in Iraq on an officially licensed expedition and Doha has put pressure on the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to help secure the hostages' release.

Wealthy Gulf Arabs often brave the risks of travel to countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Iraq to hunt with falcons without the bag limits and conservation measures they face at home.

Their favoured prey is the houbara bustard, a large game bird once nearly hunted to extinction in the Middle East.

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