- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Armed gunmen kidnapped 26 Qatari huntsmen, including a member of the ruling family, in the Iraqi desert, a senior Iraqi security official said Wednesday.

The men were captured near the Saudi Arabian border. The raid occurred at night, but it was not immediately clear whether it was politically motivated or if the hostages were taken for a ransom, the official told NBC News.

The gunmen wore military uniforms and were reportedly riding in government vehicles.

The hunting party crossed the Saudi Border a week ago, the official said. They were last seen in a remote stretch of the Samawa province.

Hunters typically travel from the Gulf states to Iraq in December to hunt and buy rare hawks from Iraqi catchers, NBC reported. The buyers usually come in December and stay about a month.

The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the kidnapping to find out who the gunmen are and where the Qataris have been taken, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping.

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