(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it is following up the kidnapping of a number of Qatari citizens who entered southern Iraq on a hunting trip, immediately after it received the news.
The ministry said in a statement that it started contacts with the Iraqi government and concerned entities at the highest security and political levels in Iraq to find out the details of the Qatari citizens' abduction and to work to get them released as soon as possible.
The statement stressed that the Qataris entered the Iraqi territories after obtaining an official permit from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and in co-ordination with the Iraqi embassy in Doha.
The statement added that HE the Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi and HE Qatar's Ambassador to Baghdad Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen were delegated to follow on procedures taken in this regard with the Iraqi government so as to ensure the safety of the Qatari citizens.
Foreign Minister speaks to his Iraqi counterpart
HE the Foreign Minister Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah has spoken with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
The phone conversation dealt with the follow-up of the abduction of Qatari nationals in Iraq.
AFP adds from Baghdad:
Gunmen kidnapped at least 26 Qatari hunters in southern Iraq, officials said on Wednesday, the second high-profile abduction of foreigners in the country in three months.
Turkey had 18 of its citizens abducted in Iraq in early September. They were eventually released unharmed.
Dozens of gunmen "kidnapped 27 Qatari hunters... when they were in a camp near the Bassiyah area," Faleh al-Zayadi, the governor of Muthanna province where they were seized, told AFP.
"All of those kidnapped are Qataris," Zayadi said, adding that the kidnappers used more than 50 vehicles mounted with machineguns.
Two Iraqi officers providing security for the party were also taken but later released, he said.
Other officials put the number of people kidnapped at 26.
"Twenty-six Qatari hunters were kidnapped at about 3:00 am (0000 GMT) by unknown gunmen," a police major from Muthanna said.
A local council member from the province gave the same number, saying that the kidnappers were in dozens of pick-up trucks.
Wealthy citizens of 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.
Iraqi militia groups, which have a major presence in Shia areas of Iraq including the south, have sent members to Syria to fight alongside Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The kidnappings come a little over three months after gunmen seized 18 Turks in Baghdad. The Turkish workers were later freed unharmed, two of them in the southern province of Basra and the other 16 on the road to Karbala, also south of Baghdad.
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