GCC ministers 'gravely concerned' over kidnapped Qataris in Iraq
Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) voiced "grave concern" over the fate of Qatari nationals who were kidnapped during a hunting trip in Iraq last year.
In a statement issued during the 140th Complementary Meeting of the GCC Ministerial Council on Monday, Gulf ministers reiterated their condemnation of the abduction as a "terrorist act", calling for the immediate release of the Qatari hunters.
"This terrorist act is a flagrant violation of international law, human rights and the teachings of Islam," the statement read.
The Council also expressed solidarity with the Qatari government and pledged full support for any action it takes, holding the Iraqi government responsible for ensuring the safety of the hostages and their release.
In December last year, a large group of unidentified armed men abducted the men from their desert camp near the Saudi border.
"An armed group driving dozens of pickup trucks kidnapped at least 26 Qatari hunters from their camp in the area of Busaya in Samawa desert," Samawa governor Falih al-Zayady said at the time.
At least nine members of the hunting group managed to escape and cross into Kuwait.
They were transported by air ambulance to hospital for treatment, Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper reported at the time, without clarifying how many victims suffered from injuries or how severe their injuries were.
In April, one of the Qatari hostages and his Asian companion were freed, Qatar's foreign ministry said at the time, without giving any details on the kidnappers or how the release was secured.
|This terrorist act is a flagrant violation of international law, human rights and the teachings of Islam
- GCC Ministerial Council
Two weeks after the kidnapping of the Qatari hunters, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Iraqi government to "do everything possible to ensure their prompt and safe release".
The Qatari government said at the time that the hunters had the necessary permits to be in the area, but Iraq's interior ministry said that they did not abide by instructions to avoid unsecured areas.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction, but there were speculations that Shia militias in southern Iraq were responsible, The New York Times reported in December.
However, Iraq's foreign minister denied in December that the pro-government Popular Mobilisation Shia militias were linked to the kidnapping.
Hunting trips to Iraq's southern desert are popular among Gulf travellers in search of rare prey during winter months.