'No link' between pro-Iraqi government militia and kidnapped Qataris

'No link' between pro-Iraqi government militia and kidnapped Qataris
The Iraqi government has 'no connections' to last week's kidnapping of 26 Qatari hunters in southern Iraq, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has said.
2 min read
22 December, 2015
File Photo: Some Iraqi militias have close links to the government [AFP]

There is no link between a pro-government militia alliance and the kidnappings of 26 Qatari hunters, Iraq's foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari has said.

There had been speculation that the kidnappers could be from one of Iraq's numerous Shia militias who are on the frontlines of Baghdad's war against the Islamic State group.

After talks with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah, Jaafari was asked to comment on "accusations that the kidnappers are members of Hashad al-Shaabi (Shia paramilitary force), which is linked to the Iraqi government."

"I categorically deny that the Iraqi government has any link to the (kidnapping) case," Jaafari responded.

"I hope some would not become suspicious that the government colluded" with the kidnappers.

The Qataris, which include members of the small country's royal family, were kidnapped in southern Iraq last week.

There is significant hostility in Iraq, especially in the Shia-majority south, over Qatar's alleged support of Islamist rebel groups, with some perceiving Doha having links to IS.

I categorically deny that the Iraqi government has any link to the (kidnapping) case
- Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Jaafari acknowledged that security problems in his war-torn country could have led to the kidnapping.

He also insisted that the Iraqi government has been working to resolve the issue and secure the release of the Qataris.

His remarks came after the Gulf Cooperation Council condemned Tuesday the kidnapping as a "breach of international law" and warned it could "hurt relations between Arab brothers".

A statement called on Baghdad to shoulder "its international legal commitments and to take immediate and decisive measures to ensure the safety of those abducted and secure their release".

The hunters entered Iraq with an "official permit" from the interior ministry, Qatar has said.

Kuwaiti media reported at the weekend that at least seven of the Qataris had managed to flee from their captors and travel home through Kuwait.

There has been no official Qatari confirmation.

The kidnappings come a little over three months after gunmen seized 18 Turks in Baghdad before later releasing them unharmed.

Turkey, like Qatar, has close ties to Syrian rebel groups and is accused by some of not doing enough to combat IS.