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Location of 40 abducted Indians known, says Iraq

Last updated on: June 19, 2014 18:46 IST

Location of 40 abducted Indians known, says Iraq

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The location of the 40 Indian construction workers kidnapped in Mosul town of strife-torn Iraq has been identified by Iraqi authorities, the government said on Thursday.

Asserting that it was doing everything possible to secure release of the kidnapped Indians, the government said the Indian embassy in Baghdad was "persistently" following the matter with Iraqi authorities.

"We have been informed by the Iraqi foreign ministry that they have been able to determine the location of where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The MEA spokesperson said no ransom demands have yet been received. Asked to share some details about the kidnapping, he only said there was “information” and “leads”. “Every avenue will be pursued. Every channel will be examined. We will utilise every opportunity to ensure safety and security of our nationals,” he said.

On apprehensions of relatives of some Indians kidnapped and stranded in Iraq that it may be difficult for them to return as their passports had been taken away by their employers, Akbaruddin said documentation will not be an issue. He said Indian mission in Baghdad continues to assist the Indians who would like to leave the country, even those who are from areas where security was not tenuous.

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Image: Reena Choudhary, wife of Rajesh Kumar who is trapped in Iraq, weeps
Photographs: PTI photo

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On whether they were safe he said, "There is no safety in captivity."

The government was also in touch with the 46 nurses who are stranded in Tikrit town, which was also taken over by ISIS militants. In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Crescent had contacted the nurses. The MEA spokesperson said it was difficult to use surface transport to rescue those stranded in violence-hit areas. “In those areas, it is difficult to use surface transport. We are looking at various options on this and we will examine the best possible option taking into consideration views of the local authorities as well the ground situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, former envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy arrived in Baghdad and would be holding meetings with Iraqi authorities.

The workers, mostly from Punjab and other parts of northern India, were working on a construction project in Mosul in northern Iraq, which has been captured by Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Akbaruddin said the Iraqi government has also confirmed kidnapping of the Indians. The initial information was based on inputs by Iraqi Red Crescent.

As concerns mounted about safety of the kidnapped Indians and 46 other nurses stranded Tikrit, another town captured by Sunni militants, the Crisis Management Group met twice. The meetings were chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Secretary east in-charge of Gulf region Anil Wadhwa also had two conversations with Iraqi Ambassador Ahmad Tahsin Ahmad Berwari, said Akbaruddin.

Meanwhile, the Congress upped its ante against the government on the Iraq issue saying there was a 'laxity' somewhere, even as the government insisted that it was working round the clock to rescue the Indian nationals trapped in that country.

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Image: Family members of the Indians who are abducted in Mosul show their pictures outside the Golden Temple, Amritsar
Photographs: PTI photo

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Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said that the Government of India must intensify its efforts for evacuation and return of all its citizens from Iraq.

In a statement, Sharma said Congress strongly condemns the abductions of Indian workers, which has caused deep distress to the affected families and hoped that the ongoing diplomatic efforts to reach out to the concerned parties and interest groups will succeed in ensuring an early release.

 Party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar also took a dig at the government, saying, "The question now is, 'can the successor government do it?'. I don't have much faith in these naïve people, who have come to office without experience." He, however, said he has great faith in the Indian foreign service.

With people from Punjab being stranded in Iraq, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and said best

efforts are being made to rescue those trapped.

"I have discussed the matter with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. She has explained the situation to me. They are trying their best. I am grateful (to them)," he told reporters later.

"We are trying our best to safely rescue all our people trapped in Iraq," Badal said.

He said efforts are being made to locate the family members of those stranded in Iraq.

 


Image: Shiite Muslims shout religious slogans as they take part in a protest against the ongoing conflict in Iraq
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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