Kidnapped Qataris released in Iraq after 16 month ordeal
"The interior ministry has received the Qatari hunters, all 26 of them," the minister's adviser, Wahab al-Taee, told AFP. "They will be handed over to the Qatari envoy."
The hunters, currently in Baghdad, will undergo identity checks by Iraqi officials and will be handed over to a Qatari delegation that has been waiting in Iraq since last week.
The group was kidnapped by up to 100 Iraqi Shia militiamen in 2015 during a hunting trip in southern Iraq and is believed to include a number of prominent members of the Qatari royal family.
The ministry official would not provide details of the deal reached for their release, but a source close to the negotiations told AFP on condition of anonymity that it was part of a broad regional deal.
"The Qataris are now in (Prime Minister) Haider al-Abadi's office following a deal between al-Nusra Front [now renamed Fatah al-Sham and part of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham coalition] and the kidnappers," the source said, referring to the former al-Qaeda affiliate.
There was never any claim for the kidnapping of the hunters, who were seized in a predominally Shia area of Iraq.
They were widely believed to have been nabbed by militias with close ties to Tehran.
The evacuations, which began last week, were delayed after a suicide car bombing on Saturday killed 126 people - including 68 children - at the transit point in Rashidin.
The process resumed on Wednesday but was delayed for two nights after a last-minute demand from rebel groups that prisoners held by President Bashar al-Assad's regime be released.
Buses transporting hundreds of frightened Syrian evacuees were on the move again Friday after the delay.