DOHA/BAGHDAD: Qatar has denied trying to pay ransom money this month to secure the release of 26 Qataris abducted in Iraq a year and a half ago by unidentified gunmen, in a complex saga that has highlighted the Gulf state’s strained ties with Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday authorities had seized suitcases containing hundreds of millions of dollars on a private Qatari jet that landed in Baghdad. He suggested the funds were part of a deal to free the hostages without Baghdad’s approval.
The 26 Qataris, including members of the country’s ruling royal family, were abducted during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in 2015. They were released last Friday.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, told Doha-based Al Jazeera late on Wednesday that Baghdad had been consulted about the money he said was sent “to support the authorities in the release of Qatari abductees.”
“Qatar has provided funds to Iraq in an official, clear and public manner,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “Qatar did not deal with armed groups outside the authority of the (Iraqi) state.”
It was the first official statement made by the government in Doha since the release of the 26 men, who were abducted in Iraqi territory dominated by militias aligned with neighboring Shiite power Iran.