M A I N   N E W S

Hostages safe in Iraq, says Union Minister
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
The Indian hostages in Iraq are safe and well looked after, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed told The Tribune tonight from Calicut (Kerala).
The Kuwaiti company, Kuwait and Gulf Link (KGL) transport company, employers of the seven hostages (three of whom are Indians), gave this information to Indian Ambassador in Kuwait Swashpawan Singh last midnight (IST) which the ambassador conveyed to the MEA immediately, Mr Ahamed said.

Asked what was happening on the hostages front which entered the 24th day today, Mr Ahamed said: “There is nothing to share. We will have to wait.”

As Mr Ahamed is away to Kerala for two days, the Crisis Management Group (CMG), which he heads, met twice today under the chairmanship of Mr R Dayakar, Joint Secretary (Gulf) in the MEA.

Sources in MEA said Friday being a weekly sabbath in Iraq, there was no activity on the hostages front. KGL is understood to have involved an unspecified number of new negotiators with the captors “Islamic Secret Army: Holders of Black Banners” and is keeping their identities under wraps because of security reasons.

“Not much information is coming from Iraq. There is a lot of tension there, particularly in Najaf and Fallujah, because of American bombings,” sources said.

An interesting point about the hostage crisis is that the captors are net-savvy people who are regularly surfing the world’s newspapers.

The information with the MEA is that the captors have been following Indian newspapers and prefer Indian newspapers to Kenyan or Egyptian newspapers because of the wide coverage given to this crisis by the media here on a daily basis.

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