A Qatari party of 26 hunters kidnapped in southern Iraq in 2015 has been freed and was being handed over to a delegation from Doha in Baghdad on Friday, officials said.

Sources close to the negotiations said their release was part of a far-reaching regional deal involving the freeing of prisoners and the evacuation of civilians in neighbouring Syria.

“The interior ministry has received the Qatari hunters, all 26 of them,” the minister’s adviser, Wahab al-Taee, told AFP news agency.

The men were handed over to a Qatari delegation and left for Doha, a ministry spokesman said in a statement. An airport official told The Associated Press the group departed on Friday afternoon on a private Qatari jet from Baghdad airport.

The group of hunters, believed to include one or several prominent members of the Qatari royal family, were kidnapped in mid-December 2015 during a hunting trip in the Muthanna govenorate of southern Iraq.

They were taken from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern Iraq in Muthanna province, some 370km southeast of the Iraqi capital.


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