Search on for two GCC citizens missing in Iraqi desert

Security forces have launched a wide-scale search for the pair in an area that is a hiding place for ISIS

Iraq's southern and western deserts are popular with hunters in search of falcons. Reuters
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Two GCC citizens have gone missing in a desert while on a hunting trip in central Iraq, locals and security officials said on Monday.

Two local hunters said the Kuwaiti and the Saudi citizens were in a desert between Anbar province, west of Baghdad, and Salaheddin province north of the capital.

The area is one of the hiding places for ISIS, they told The National.

A security official confirmed two foreigners have gone missing, but did not confirm their nationalities.

Security forces have launched a wide-scale search for the two, he said.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al Sabah phoned his Iraqi equivalent Fuad Hussein “to inquire about the circumstances of the disappearance of a Kuwaiti citizen”, Kuwaiti News Agency reported.

An Iraqi Foreign Ministry statement referred only to one Kuwaiti national.

It said Mr Hussein told Sheikh Salem that the Iraqi government would "determine the fate of the Kuwaiti national". The statement followed a phone call between the two ministers on Monday.

Hunters from wealthy Gulf states often make trips to Iraq's southern and western deserts in search of falcons.

In December 2015, two dozen Qataris and two Saudis were kidnapped while on a hunting party in the Samawa desert south of Iraq.

The hunters, including prominent members of the Qatari royal family, were held captive for 16 months before they were released under a complex regional deal linked to the Syrian civil war.

There was no claim of responsibility for the 2015 kidnapping, but it was widely believed to have been carried out by Iran-backed militias.

In mid-2014, ISIS overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a caliphate in the neighbouring countries.

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led international coalition, reclaimed all the territory in Iraq held by ISIS in late 2017 after three years of fighting.

But the terrorist group's cells continue to mount hit-and-run attacks, particularly in the vast desert regions of northern and western Iraq, near the border with Syria.

Iraqi security forces often launch air strikes and small-scale military operations against ISIS in remote areas.

Updated: December 25, 2023, 7:57 PM