Iraqi officials: 26 hostages, including Qatari royals, free

BAGHDAD — After nearly a year and a half in captivity, 26 hostages, including members of Qatar’s ruling family, were released on Friday, Iraqi officials said, in what had become possibly the region’s most complex and sensitive hostage negotiations in recent years.

Several people with knowledge of the talks and a person involved in the negotiations said the hostage deal was linked to one of the largest population transfers in Syria’s six-year-long civil war, and was delayed for several days due to an explosion one week ago that killed at least 130 people, most of them children and government supporters, waiting to be transferred.

The transfer of thousands of Syrian civilians was also tied to another deal involving 750 political prisoners to be released by the Syrian government.

The complexity of the talks highlights Qatar’s role as an experienced and shrewd facilitator in hostage negotiations — this time involving members of the Gulf Arab state’s ruling family.

It also raises allegations that the tiny energy-rich nation, which has aggressively backed Sunni groups fighting to topple the Syrian government, paid millions of dollars to an al-Qaida-linked group to facilitate the population transfer in Syria that led to the hostages’ release in Iraq.

Iraqi Interior Ministry official Wahhab al-Taie told The Associated Press the hostages were all Qatari nationals and had been released into the custody of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

An airport official said the group departed Friday afternoon on a private Qatari jet from Baghdad airport.

Two other Iraqi officials— a government and another security official — also confirmed details of the release to the AP. They said the handover had been delayed for several days in part because Iraqi officials did not want ransom money exchanged or negotiations for their release to happen on Iraqi soil. The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

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