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Qatari Hunting Party Kidnapped In Southern Iraq

Gunmen driving pickup trucks kidnapped 26 Qatari citizens from a hunting camp in a desert area near the Saudi border with Iraq early December 16, officials said.

It was the second high-profile seizure of foreign nationals in the country in three months after gunmen seized 18 employees of a Turkish construction firm in Baghdad. The Turks were later freed unharmed.

AFP reported that the Qatari hunting party included members of Qatar's ruling family as well as two Iraqi officers providing security for the party.

Doha did not confirm or comment on the kidnapping. Security forces launched a wide-scale search for the kidnap victims.

Wealthy citizens of Sunni Gulf states sometimes venture into Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq to hunt with falcons because they do not face the bag limits and restrictions on killing certain species that they face at home.

But there is significant hostility in Iraq, especially in the Shi'ite-majority south, toward the Gulf countries stemming from tensions over the Syrian civil war and rise of the Islamic State militant Sunni group.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

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