As the mystery surrounding the abduction last week of a Qatari hunting party in Iraq deepened, a report in Kuwait said that nine of its members were from the Al Thani Ruling family.
The Al Thani hunters abducted are Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Mohammad Al Thani, Shaikh Nayed Bin Eid Mohammad Al Thani, Shaikh Abdul Rahman Bin Jasem Abdul Aziz Jassem Al Thani, Shaikh Jassem Bin Fahad Mohammad Thani Al Thani, Shaikh Khalid Bin Jassem Fahad Mohammad Al Thani, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Khalid Ahmad Mohammad Al Thani, Shaikh Fahad Bin Eid Mhammad Thani Al Thani, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Mohammad Bin Ahmad Al Thani, and Shaikh Jabr Bin Ahmad Al Thani, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Friday.
No details have been provided about the identity of the kidnappers and the reason for the abduction, but so far nine people have been able to reach Kuwait where they provided some information about what happened.
The nine who drove back into Kuwait, and were welcomed at Abdaly border crossing by officials and the Qatari ambassador in Kuwait City, are one Kuwaiti, two Saudis and six Qataris.
However, none of the Qataris who arrived in Kuwait was a member of the Al Thani family.
According to one of the rescued, the expedition of hunters that crossed from Kuwait into Iraq three weeks ago consisted of 70 people, including members of the Ruling family in Qatar, young people, Saudis and Kuwaitis.
“Armed militias attacked the camp where the party was staying at around 2am and kidnapped all those who were there at the time,” he said. “They were 32 people and the list included hunters, workers, cooks and helpers. They were transported to an undisclosed location. The other members of the party were not kidnapped because they were away on a night hunting expedition,” he said, quoted by Al Rai.
“The hunting expedition was duly licenced by the Iraqi authorities and the tent of the hunting party is among the largest put up by various hunting groups in the area,” he said.
Kuwaiti officials said they have been monitoring the situation closely through the ministry of interior and the ministry of foreign affairs, but they denied claims they were aware of the identity of the kidnappers or their militia.
“Negotiations to secure the release of the kidnapped hunting party members were conducted directly with the Iraqi authorities,” Khalid Al Jarallah, the deputy foreign minister, said.
Reports in Iraq said the nine people who had been able to cross back into Kuwait were servants and not hunters.
“They were not kidnapped alongside the hunters and they were taken back to Kuwait by the Iraqi authorities,” an Iraqi police source told Iraqi news site Al Sumaria.
Faleh Al Ziyadi, the governor of Al Muthanna in the south of Iraq, said he had banned all Gulf hunting parties from hunting in the area following the kidnapping.
“Military operations with aerial assistance from the army and the police are being conducted to find the kidnapped,” he said. “A security committee headed by the interior minister has been formed to look into the kidnapping and identify the kidnappers and locate them,” he said.
Ahmad Al Abyadh, an Iraqi political analyst, told Al Rai that if the kidnapped are not released quickly, they will most likely be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to secure the release detainees held by armed factions in Syria.
The presence of Gulf nationals on hunting expeditions using falcons in southern Iraq is a deep-rooted tradition.
Hunting trips up to 2003, the year the regime was changed in Iraq, were under the direct supervision of the intelligence services, Al Sumaria said.
However, after 2003, the number of Gulf nationals who crossed into Iraq to hunt has dwindled due to security concerns, but expeditions never stopped.
The Gulf hunters regularly purchased falcons from Iraqis in the southern part of the country where several associations breed them and promote hunting.
By Habib Toumi