Gunmen have kidnapped at least 26 Qatari hunters, including members of its royal family, in southern Iraq, officials said.

They were snatched from a camp near the Bassiyah province at 3am, said the area’s governor, Faleh al-Zayadi.

Police said the kidnappers used more than 50 vehicles with mounted machine guns, in what was the second high profile kidnapping in Iraq since September.

Two Iraqi officers tasked with protecting the party were also taken, but later released.

Al-Zayadi added: ‘All of those kidnapped are Qatari and a number of members of the ruling family in Qatar are among them.’

Qatar’s foreign ministry has asked Iraq for ‘details about the kidnapping’ and urged them ‘to work to release them as quickly as possible’.

The hunters entered Iraq with an ‘official permit’ from the interior ministry, it added in a statement released to the QNA news agency.

Wealthy citizens from Sunni Gulf states are known to travel to Middle Eastern nations including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to hunt falcons.

There, the hunters are not restricted to the same quotas and conservation measures as they would be at home.

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