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Hostages: 'Only god knows what will happen'

August 07, 2004 16:29 IST
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The attack took place on the afternoon of April 10, 2004, 12 days after he arrived in Iraq from Kuwait.

Aroop Singh, a truck driver who is "around 30 years old" and is working for RIC (Coolex) in Kuwait, was taking bread, ice creams and other such supplies to Fallujah from Baghdad.

He had barely travelled 10 km when his truck came under attack and before he knew, a bullet tore through both his legs and exited.

Aroop knew of the dangers in the country, where three Indians working for another Kuwaiti company, KGL, are being held hostage.

On reaching the Iraqi capital from Kuwait, he had hung around at the Baghdad International Airport for seven-eight days.

When he left for Fallujah, it was in a convoy of 32 vehicles -- 25 of the US army and seven trucks, including his, carrying supplies.

 But when the attack took place, everyone scrambled.

 "I prayed to god," he says. "I told him that I would never make this mistake [of coming to Iraq] again."

He somehow walked to the truck ahead of him and told its driver, Lakhwinder Singh, who was, like him, from Punjab, about his injury.

"For a month after the incident, I was at the Baghdad International Airport," Aroop, who is back in Kuwait with one of his legs shortened by about four inches, told over phone.

"At that time my wife did not know about it. A month later while returning to Kuwait I called her from the Kuwait-Iraq border and told her what had happened."

Aroop has no clue about the number of people who were injured in the attack, but he is sure that no one died.

"I came to Kuwait in February and before that I was in Saudi Arabia for around seven years. I was born and brought up in Bhatinda district of Punjab," says Aroop.

 "I am married and do not have any kids...married for 6-7 years."

Aroop grew up in the company of three brothers and two sisters. His father died a few years ago.

"I am the youngest in the family," he says, adding, "ours is a family of farmers."

 When he was around 22, an agent approached him and told him that he could make much more money if he went abroad.

 "There was someone in my village who told me that it was very easy to go abroad. And that is how I reached here. There were some financial problems at home."

In Kuwait, his company pays him 130 Kuwaiti Dinars per month, which comes to around Rs 18,000. "It is not really much, but it is better than what I would have earned over there."

After the harrowing ordeal, he says he now wants to go back to his village. "I am waiting for the insurance. Once that is done I will come back to India."

He says that around 20-25 Indians who worked for the company have already left. "Only 10-11 Indian workers remain."

The company has not paid Aroop any compensation. "The company is giving me my salary and apart from that I do not get anything. In Baghdad I was treated for free as it was a government hospital.

"I don't think anything is going to happen. Our foreman here, who is a Pakistani, asked us not to make many demands, lest the company even stopped paying us our salary."

When contacted, Aroop was listening to the news about the three abducted Indians. "Nothing has happened right now and negotiations are still going on."

He said of their chances of being released: "Everything is in the hands of the almighty. Who else can say what will happen?"

He said he did not know them, "but the drivers of their company often travelled with us."


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