M A I N   N E W S

Release of hostages any moment
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
The Kuwaiti employer company of Indian hostages in Iraq tonight told the Ministry of External Affairs that agreement had been reached with the captors’ negotiator as it had met all the conditions set by the kidnappers.

Sources said the talks between a representative of KGL Limited and the captors’ negotiator Sheikh Hashim al-Dulaimi concluded for the day at 5 pm hours Baghdad time and it was not known whether a fresh round of talks would take place or when the hostages would be released.

A top source in the Government of India told The Tribune that the hostages were going to be released “tonight itself”.

But even if this contention were to prove to be true, there was no way for the hostages to fly immediately out of Iraq because the Baghdad airport closes for operations after 6 pm.

Considering that the hostages are released within a few hours from now, the hostages would have to wait till morning to be brought back here. They may have to be taken to Jordan. From there the first available flight for Delhi is scheduled for 10 am.

The much-awaited face-to-face “wrap-up” meeting between the captors’ negotiator Sheikh Hashim al-Dulaimi and a representative of the hostages’ employer KGL Limited took place in Baghdad today.

The negotiations took place at an undisclosed location in Baghdad and the venue was neither the Indian nor the Egyptian embassy.

Sources said this was the first-ever face-to-face meeting between the two sides and added that reports published today in a section of the Indian Press saying that this meeting had taken place yesterday were wrong.

The mood in the Ministry of External Affairs was that of expectancy as the top brass waited for the big news from Iraq keeping their fingers crossed.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed summoned top officials in his South Block office in the evening as the feedback from Indian embassies in Baghdad and Kuwait was that Sheikh Dulaimi was expected to go on air to read out a statement on Al-Arabiya television “any moment”.

The MEA feedback said Sheikh Dulaimi was going to announce the successful outcome of the 17-day-long negotiations and the release of the hostages.

KGL Limited has already accepted all the terms and conditions set forth by the captors.

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