Turkey worked as intermediary in Qatar’s hostage crisis last April wherein the Gulf country entered secret talks to free 25 of its citizens from kidnappers in Iraq, in a deal that involved at total ransom payment of up to $1 billion to international terrorist organizations, according to an article in the Washington Post.
In an article titled ‘’Hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages,’’ Joby Warrick penned for the Washington Post, Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen, Qatar’s ambassador to Iraq and chief negotiator in last year’s hostage affair, is quoted in a confidential message as having said, ‘’The Syrians, Hezbollah-Lebanon, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iraq — all want money, and this is their chance. All of them are thieves.”
The hostage affair, where half-dozen militias and foreign governments made moves to squeeze cash from the wealthy Persian Gulf state, forced the Qataris to hand over large sums of cash, Warrick recalls.
‘’Qatari officials fret and grouse, but then they appear to consent to payments totaling at least $275 million to free nine members of the royal family and 16 other Qatari nationals kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq, according to copies of the intercepted communications obtained by The Washington Post,’’ the author shares.
The Washington Post article goes to claim that the payments were part of ‘’a larger deal that would involve the Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish governments as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and at least two Syrian opposition groups, including al-Nusra Front, the notorious Sunni rebel faction linked to al-Qaeda,’’ with the total sum for the return of the hostages reaching as high as $1 billion.
While Qatar, has acknowledged receiving help from multiple countries in securing the hostages’ release last year, the article says, it has ‘’consistently denied reports that it paid terrorist organizations as part of the deal.’’
Conversations and text messages obtained by The Washington Post;however, say otherwise, showing senior Qatari diplomats appearing to sign off on a series of side payments ranging from $5 million to $50 million to ‘’Iranian and Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders, with $25 million earmarked for a Kata’ib Hezbollah boss and $50 million set aside for “Qassem,” an apparent reference to Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a key participant in the hostage deal.’’
The Washington Post article notes that in the recorded communications between diplomats and mediators, Qatari officials complain about having to pay millions of dollars to reward violent organizations which resort to kidnapping.
The UK’s Independent had obtained a memo showing that the Iraqi government had allegedly seized $500 million held in 23 duffel bags as Qatari diplomats landed in Iraq in April, prior to the release of the hostages; however, Qatar pushed back on the allegations, stating that payments went to the government of Iraq “to support the authorities in the release of Qatari abductees”.