UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern on Wednesday for two dozen Qataris abducted in southern Iraq earlier this month and pressed the prime minister to secure their immediate release.
Unidentified gunmen in dozens of pick-up trucks abducted the Qataris, including children, from their desert camp while they were on a falconry expedition. Nine people at the camp reportedly managed to escape and cross into Kuwait.
No immediate claim of responsibility for the abductions has been made. A number of armed militia operate in the remote area.
|The Qataris were on a hunting trip
Ban called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday to express his concern about the mass kidnapping of the Qataris, and urged his government to do "everything possible to ensure their prompt and safe return".
Qatar has repeatedly said its nationals had crossed into Iraqi territory with an official permit from the Iraqi interior ministry.
Last week, the Gulf Corporation Council also called on the Iraqi government to "take decisive and immediate measures" to free the Qataris.
Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said: "I deny categorically that this issue has any relation to the Iraqi government."
Source: Al Jazeera