Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Qataris who went missing in southern Iraq last week were kidnapped by armed fighters associated with the Abu al-Fadl Al-Abbas Brigade, a faction of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, and that the real number of people abducted at the beginning was 39, of which 26 were Qataris and 13 were helpers or workers of Asian ethnicity. 9 of these helpers were released.
The sources added that “secret negotiations with the kidnappers are taking place through intermediaries” and that Hadi Al- Amiri, commander of the Badr Organisation and a prominent leader of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi is responsible for the negotiation process. The sources also mentioned that the mediators are coordinating with the Qataris and other Gulf parties after the kidnapper’s demands increased to include the release of some internationally wanted terrorists. The sources added that the “first deal made included the release of the hostages in exchange for $100 million, but the kidnappers refused and moved their demands from money to politics”.
In the meantime, the residents of Baiji in the governorate of Salah ad Din implored the authorities in a statement yesterday to rescue their city from destruction and bombing carried out by Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi. They stated that “Since entering Baiji after the expulsion of ISIS from it, the militias have destroyed more than 65% of civilian houses, all government facilities and departments and mosques”.
In a related matter, Iraqi military aircraft dropped leaflets on the city of Ramadi asking for residents to leave the city within 72 hours. Military sources have linked these leaflets to “a big impending military operation” that the army is preparing in order to free the city from ISIS.