Senior officials sent to “secure safety” of hunting party which had entered southern Iraq “with official permission”.
The Gulf Corporation Council has called on the Iraqi government to “take decisive and immediate measures” to secure the release of Qatari citizens abducted earlier this month in the country’s south.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the six-nation group – of which Qatar is a member – said the kidnapping of Qatari nationals reportedly on a hunting trip was an “unacceptable act that hurts the bonds of fraternal relations between the Arab brothers”, Qatar’s state media reported.
Iraq’s foreign minister denied on Tuesday that his government had anything to do with the abductions.
“I deny categorically that this issue has any relation to the Iraqi government,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told reporters in Kuwait.
Earlier this month, a group of unidentified armed men abducted at least 26 Qataris from their desert hunting camp near the Saudi border. Nine people at the camp reportedly managed to escape and cross into Kuwait.
Qatar has repeatedly said its nationals had crossed into Iraqi territory with an official permit from the Iraqi interior ministry.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the abductions, which took place in a desolate expanse where a number of armed militia operate.
“Not everything that exists on the ground [in Iraq] is there with the approval of the government… There are security flaws that we must acknowledge and our enemies exploited the security shortcomings,” Jaafari said.
The kidnapping comes more than three months after armed men seized 18 Turkish nationals in Baghdad.
The Turkish workers were later freed unharmed, two of them in the southern province of Basra and the other 16 on the road to Karbala, also south of Baghdad.