Qatar says Iraq has responsibility to help free kidnapped hunters

Friday 08/01/2016
Kidnappings came at a time of tense relations

DOHA - Qatar's foreign minister said Wednesday that Baghdad had a responsibility to help free more than 20 Qataris kidnapped almost a month ago while on a hunting trip to Iraq.

Khalid al-Attiyah, speaking on the sidelines of a rights conference in Doha, said Doha was liasing with Baghdad to try to secure the release of the hunters, who are thought to include members of Qatar's royal family.

"We are working closely with the Iraqi government. I think they should hold responsibility," said Attiyah, noting that the Qataris had been granted permits to hunt by the Iraqi government.

Asked if he was confident that they would be released, Attiyah said: "God willing".

The group of at least 26 hunters were taken hostage in December after their camp in the south of the country, close to the Saudi border, was attacked.

Another nine people were able to escape and cross into Kuwait.

The hunters were there on an officially licensed expedition.

Attiyah's call follows a demand from the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Qatar is a member, late last for Baghdad to take "decisive and immediate measures" to secure the release of the hunters.

Iraq's government has said it has nothing to do with the abductions.

The kidnappings came at a time of tense relations between Qatar and Iraq.

There is significant hostility in Iraq, especially in the Shiite-majority south, over Qatar's stance on the Syrian civil war and perceived complicity in the rise of the Islamic State group.

Qatar has financially backed rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iraqi militia groups, which have a major presence in Shiite areas of Iraq including the south, have sent members to Syria to fight alongside Assad's regime.

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