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Qatari hunting party kidnapped in southern Iraq

'At least 100 gunmen' captured a reported 27 people in Qatari group hunting with falcons near Samawa city
Hooded birds of prey stand on their perches as Emiratis prepare themselves for a hunt (AFP)

Gunmen have kidnapped a reported 27 members of a Qatari hunting group - including members of the ruling family - in southern Iraq, according to local police sources.

"An armed group driving dozens of pickup trucks kidnapped at least 26 Qatari hunters from their camp in the area of Busaya in Samawa desert near Saudi borders," Samawa governor Falih al-Zayady said.

The Qatari foreign ministry has confirmed the incident and said it is working to secure the safe release of their citizens.

A local police chief told Reuters that the Qataris had been accompanied by Iraqi security forces, but that they had decided not to engage the more numerous gunmen.

“We are talking about at least 100 gunmen armed with light and medium weapons who broke into the Qatari camp and abducted the hunters at around 3am local time on Wednesday," he said.

Some analysts on social media reported that a member of the royal family was among those captured.

The identity of the gunmen is as of yet unknown. A wide-scale search has been launched by Iraqi forces for the Qataris.

Qataris and other Gulf citizens regularly travel to Iraq to hunt with falcons.