Hacked phone messages shed light on massive payoff that ended Iraqi hostage affair
In late 2015, kidnappers seized nine members of Qatar's royal family and 21 others during a hunting trip in southern Iraq. Nearly 17 months later, the hostages were freed unharmed after Qatar reportedly agreed to a settlement involving cash payments totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Intercepted text and phones messages appear to show Qatari officials agreeing to pay tens of millions of dollars a group of mediators that included senior Iranian officials as well as representatives of a paramilitary group the United States regards as a terrorist organization. The conversations--mostly between Qatari ambassador to Iraq Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen al-Hajri and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani--were provided to The Washington Post by a foreign government on the condition that the source not be revealed. To authenticate the exchanges, The Post viewed original screen grabs of the text messages in Arabic, and listened to recordings of the voice memos. Qatari officials assert that their government made no ransom payments to kidnappers or to terrorist groups. Qatar has not disputed claims that it provided money to foreign governments to win the hostages' release. Hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages.