Punjab government on Friday said that the Centre was making all efforts to locate the whereabouts of the 39 Indian youths who had been held hostage for nearly a year by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants in Iraq.
A day after one of the escapee among the 40 Indian youths held hostage by militants created furore by claiming that all 39 had been killed, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday said, the Centre was making strenuous efforts to locate the whereabouts of the Punjabis trapped in Iraq.
"The state government is in constant touch with the Centre to know the details of the sons of the soil trapped in Iraq," he said in Sangrur.
Saying it was unfortunate that all these youth have not yet come back, Badal said that the state government and the Centre were leaving no stone unturned to ensure their safe release.
The chief minister said that he had personally taken up the issue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was taking keen interest in evacuating these youth from the strife-torn Iraq.
Reiterating the state government's firm commitment to extend a helping hand to the distressed families, the chief minister further said that he had already directed the state government officers to ensure that the families of the youths were given financial assistance on time.
He said that the state government was duty bound to help these distressed families in this hour of grave crisis.
On Thursday at Mohali, Harjeet Masih (26), the lone Indian who escaped from the clutches of ISIS militants in Iraq, had claimed that all 39 Indians kept hostage by militants had been shot dead.
Masih, working for a construction company in Iraq, claimed that he had miraculously escaped from the clutches of the militants.
"I witnessed the killings of all Indian co-workers," he had said.
"The ISIS kidnapped us and took us to another place. We were 40 Indians and about 50 Bangladeshis. They assured us that our passports would come and we will be allowed to leave for India," Masih had said.
"They handed us over to another group of theirs who took us to a hilly region. They fired on us indiscriminately. I was shot on the leg, kept lying there and later escaped. There could be a possibility that someone else also must have survived," he had said.
Masih, who was kept in protective custody in Iraq, had addressed media in Sangrur along with Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann.
The Indian nationals were taken hostage by the ISIS on June 11 last year in northern Iraq's town of Mosul.