Iraq officials: 26 hostages, including Qatari royals, freed

FILE - In this Thursday, June 20, 2013 file photo, special operations forces from Iraq, Jordan and the U.S. stand in formation wearing gas masks following a combined demonstration as part of Eager Lion multinational military maneuvers at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC) in Amman, Jordan. The government-owned Al-Rai newspaper says a Jordanian policeman opened fire on American contractors at a police training center, killing two and injuring three. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Two Iraqi officials say that 26 hostages, including members of Qatar’s ruling family, have been released after 16 months in captivity in Iraq.

The two — a government and a security official — told The Associated Press that the hostages were released on Friday into the custody of the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

The group was kidnapped in December 2015 from a desert camp for falcon hunters in southern.

Iraqi officials say the abduction sparked more than a year of negotiations between Iran, Qatar and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, resulting in millions of dollars in payments to Sunni and Shiite factions.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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