Twenty-six Qatari nationals have been handed over to the Iraqi authorities after having been abducted more than one year ago by an unidentified armed group, an Interior Ministry source said Friday.
"Enormous efforts were exerted by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji to secure their release,” the source, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media, told Anadolu Agency.
"Al-Araji in particular went to great lengths to ensure their safety,” the source said. “The interior ministry is keen to ensure that the issue is not linked to financial or political considerations."
The same source went on to note that the released captives would soon be handed over to the Qatari authorities before being repatriated.
The source did not elaborate further or provide information about those responsible for the abductions.
The group of Qataris, which included members of Qatar’s royal family, were abducted by gunmen in late 2015 while on a hunting trip in southern Iraq near the Saudi border.
In recent months, it was reported that the Hezbollah Brigades -- an armed Shia faction linked to Iran -- were mediating between the abductors and Qatari negotiators.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry confirmed earlier that the group of Qataris had entered Iraq “with official permission from Iraq’s Interior Ministry and in coordination with the Iraqi embassy in Doha”.
*Reporting by Ibrahim Saleh; Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg