Beirut- Informed sources close to talks related to the kidnapping of 26 Qataris in Iraq told Asharq Al-Awsat that “negotiations linked to their release have not stopped, but that part of the kidnappers’ conditions is to remain silent and not publicly discuss the issue; due to its sensitivity.”
The Qataris were kidnapped on December 16, 2015 from a desert hunting party in the province of Muthanna in Iraq.
Circulated information has confirmed that members from the Qatar ruling family in addition to Kuwaiti nationals might be among the kidnapped residents.
Following the kidnapping, Qatar had said its nationals crossed into Iraqi territory with an official permit from Iraq’s interior ministry.
On Monday, the informed source said that negotiations were conducted through the intermediary of the Kuwaiti embassy, described as a source of trust to both parties: The kidnappers and the Qatari side, in addition to a liaison officer linked to “Hezbollah.”
“The kidnappers do not accept a ransom anymore, whatever the sum was. They insist on the release of 3 Lebanese Hezbollah commanders, who were kidnapped by Al-Nusra Front (currently Fatah al-Sham),” the source said.
In November 2015, a Twitter account affiliated to Al-Nusra Front said that the militants kidnapped three Hezbollah militants south of Aleppo.
The informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the problem preventing the release of the kidnapped Qataris was not linked to the price of the Hezbollah members or an objection from the Qatari side. He also denied that difficulties were linked to the absence of any influence from the parties negotiating with Al-Nusra Front. The source said: “The three kidnapped Hezbollah members are high-ranking commanders, and therefore, the case is complicated, not a simple financial deal.”
He said that negotiations were now “stumbled” although kidnappers have presented enough guarantees to prove the Qataris were in a safe location in Iraq, probably in southern Baghdad, and were in good health and well-treated.