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Gunmen Kidnap 26 Qatari Huntsmen, Including Prince, in Iraqi Desert: Official

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Armed gunmen kidnapped more than two dozen Qatari huntsmen, including a young prince, in a desert near the Saudi Arabian border, a senior Iraqi security official said Wednesday.

The raid occurred at night, but it was not immediately clear whether it was politically motivated or if the group was taken for a ransom, the official told NBC News. The attackers wore military uniforms and appeared to be riding in government vehicles.

Related: Iraq Deputy Justice Minister Abdel Karim Faris Kidnapped: Officials

The group of 26 Qataris had entered the country from the Saudi border a week ago, the official said, and they were last seen in a remote stretch of the Samawa province.

Huntsmen from various Gulf states are known to travel to Iraq to hunt and buy rare hawks from Iraqi catchers. The buyers typically come in December and stay about a month.

Iraq's Ministry of Interior has started an investigation to find out who is behind the kidnapping and where the men were taken, the official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction.