The Prime Minister of Qatar has personally apologised after women on at least ten flights (including 13 Australian women) were invasively strip-searched to find the mother of an abandoned baby in Doha airport.

The incident sparked a huge international row because the searches were non-consensual. One source in Doha told reporters the searches were “basically forced pap smears.”

On Twitter, Prime Minister and Interior Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani said an investigation was now underway as to who at Hamad International Airport was responsible for the massive overstep of powers.

“We regret the unacceptable treatment of the female passengers at HIA,” he wrote on Friday night.

“I assure you that we will hold those responsible for these acts to account.

“What took place does not represent Qatar’s laws or values. We will undertake all measures to prevent a recurrence.”

In a separate statement on the same day, a spokesperson for the Qatari government said what had happened was illegal and that a task force was now reviewing any breaches in protocol which took place that night on October 2.

The apology was welcomed by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who also thanked Qatari diplomats in Australia for their “professional and diligent diplomacy in seeking a genuine and meaningful resolution in response to this disturbing event.”

“It is an important step that these offences have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office,” she said on Friday.

“Australian passengers will be reassured that Qatar has established a specialised task force to review procedures and protocols to ensure there is never a repeat of this incident.

“The statement of the Government of Qatar is consistent with our expectations for contrition, accountability and determination to avoid any repeat of this disturbing episode.”

The women who were searched on the night earlier in October described being suddenly taken out of their planes and forced into ambulances.

“No-one spoke English or told us what was happening. It was terrifying,” one of the women told the ABC.

Another woman said “there was nowhere for me to run.”

There’s been no mention of any compensation for these women just yet, and the baby’s mother still hasn’t been found.

Image: Getty Images / NurPhoto