Rumors about a massive $1 billion ransom payment made by the Qatari government to recover a large number of hostages held in Iraq have been floating around for months. The sudden split between Qatar and a number of other regional powers has brought it back to the fore, however, with Egypt calling for a UN inquiry into the allegation.
26 Qatari hostages were held for nearly a year and a half by a Shi’ite militia faction in Iraq. The men were in the country at a falcon-hunting camp, and included members of the Qatari royal family. The militia demanded $1 billion for their release.
It’s never been publicly disclosed how much they paid as part of the negotiations, but speculation was that it was a significant amount, in the tens of millions of dollars by most estimates. Few actually believe that the entire $1 billion ransom was ever paid.
Any ransom at all being paid is now an issue Egypt and other nations angry at Qatar are trying to use as a sign that they were “appeasing” terrorists and ended up funding them to the tune of a lot of money. That said, payments of ransoms for high-value hostages have been common in Iraq and Syria during the war on terror, and Qatar is hardly alone in biting the bullet and getting people released. It’s an issue that likely would not be an issue but for the unrelated tension ongoing.
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