BAGHDAD, April 21 (Xinhua) -- A total of 26 Qatari hunters, including members of Qatar's ruling family, were released after being kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in late 2015, a security official said.
"The Interior Ministry received all the 26 Qatari hunters, and is checking their IDs and passports and taking their fingerprints and they would be handed over to Qatar's embassy," Wahab al-Taa'i, an Interior Ministry advisor told reporters.
The Qatari hunters were kidnapped from their camp by gunmen in Smawa desert in Iraq's southern Muthanna Province in December 2015 after they legally crossed the Iraqi-Saudi border.
The Iraqi authorities launched an investigation and a wide-scale search, but found no information about their whereabouts or condition.
Their release is believed to be part of a complex deal, which has connection with the conflict in Syria.
The deserts and valleys of the provinces of Muthanna, Basra and Dhi Qar in southern Iraq have gained popularity as hunting grounds, attracting visitors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar to explore the vast wilderness in the three southern provinces.