In this Saturday, April 7, 2012 file photo, with the new high-rise buildings of downtown Doha in the background, Qatari women and a man enjoy walking by the sea, in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
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A member of Qatar's ruling family has paid $2 million to a Greek shoe salesman's firm to secure "proof of life" and ultimately free relatives and others kidnapped in Iraq over a year ago, presumably by Shiite militiamen. The payment, disclosed in U.S. Justice Department documents examined by the Associated Press, shed new light on the opaque world of private hostage negotiation in the Middle East in a case that now involves hackers, encrypted internet communication and promises of millions of dollars in ransom payments.The rare disclosure suggests Qatar could be trying to be more transparent with Washington, its main Western ally. The Qatari, Khalifa bin Fahed bin Mohammad al-Thani, signed a contract dated March 8 with a San Diego-based firm called Global Strategies Council Inc., according to documents filed to the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The contract called for a $2 million payment up front, a large sum that's rare among other organizations filing these disclosures.Though not naming the Qataris held, the documents provide the first Qatari acknowledgment that those kidnapped included ruling family members.Western officials have accused Qatar of allowing or even encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like Al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.
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