Doha (Web Desk): Qatar paid up to $1 billion to release members of its royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip, according to people involved in the hostage deal — one of the triggers behind Arab states’ dramatic decision to cut ties with the government in Doha.
According to the Financial Times, Doha spent the money in a transaction that secured the release of 26 members of a Qatari falconry party in southern Iraq and about 50 militants captured by jihadis in Syria. By their telling, Qatar paid off two of the most frequently blacklisted forces of the Middle East in one fell swoop: an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria and Iranian security officials.
The news of Qatar's ransom comes after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, and a powerful military leader in Libya all severed ties with Doha on Monday.
SPA, a Saudi state news agency, said the kingdom cut ties because Qatar "embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and Al Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," according to Reuters.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain represent the most prominent of the Gulf Arab states and premier powers in the Sunni world, which rivals Iran and its Shia influence in the Middle East.
Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states have in the past sparred over Qatar's softer stance on Iran and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist organization founded in Egypt, but a source told Financial Times that "the ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel's back."