Qatari pays $2m to try to free royals abducted in Iraq

2017-04-11 17:24
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Dubai - A member of Qatar's ruling family has paid $2m to a Greek shoe salesman's firm to secure "proof of life" and ultimately free relatives and others kidnapped in Iraq over year ago, presumably by Shi'ite militiamen.

The payment, disclosed in US Justice Department documents, shed new light on the opaque world of private hostage negotiation in the Middle East in a case that now involves hackers, encrypted internet communication and promises of millions of dollars in ransom payments.

The rare disclosure suggests Qatar could be trying to be more transparent with Washington, its main Western ally. The energy-rich country has long faced allegations of not doing enough to stop money from reaching Islamic extremists, including those fighting alongside the rebels in Syria.

Captive members

The Qatari, Khalifa bin Fahed bin Mohammed Al Thani, signed a contract dated March 8 with a San Diego-based firm called Global Strategies Council,  according to documents filed to the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The contract called for a $2m payment up front, a large sum that's rare among other organisations filing these disclosures.

The contract calls for the group "to obtain proof of life," speak to government agencies and "attempt to negotiate with captors for the release of captive members of the royal family of Qatar".

Though not naming the Qataris held, the documents provide the first Qatari acknowledgment that those kidnapped included ruling family members.

The December 16 2015 abduction happened at dawn at a desert camp near the Saudi border in the southern Muthanna province, about 370km southeast of the capital, Baghdad. Gunmen kidnapped two dozen Qataris and support staff who were taking part in a falconry hunt. In April 2016, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said one of the hunters and "his Asian companion" were freed, but no word of the hostages has been made public since. The United Nations has said children were among those seized.
Read more on:    uae  |  kidnapping

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