M A I N   N E W S

Iraq on the boil
Sushma Swaraj says workers safe; relatives seek immediate action for their release from captivity
Abducted Indians in Iraq located: Govt
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Special envoy holds talks with Iraqi officials

  • Kidnapped workers were being kept in a government building or a cotton mill
  • They are being provided food by their abductors
  • India’s special envoy Suresh Reddy, a former Ambassador to Iraq, held meetings with senior Iraqi officials and discussed the abduction issue
  • The government will issue free air tickets for the returnees

New Delhi, June 19
Forty Indian construction workers in the custody of Sunni militants in the strife-torn Mosul city of Iraq are safe and the government will spare no effort to bring them home safely, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today told a delegation from Punjab comprising members of the families of those abducted.

The kidnapped workers of the Baghdad-based Tariq Noor al-Huda construction company were holed up in a government building or a cotton mill and are being provided food by their abductors, Swaraj told the delegation, led by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

“I am personally weighing all options. The government is making all kinds of efforts. We are not leaving any stone unturned,” Swaraj said.

India’s special envoy Suresh Reddy, a former Ambassador to Iraq has reached Baghdad and met senior Iraqi officials. Reddy is said to be using his sources in the Iraqi establishment in an effort to contact the abductors.

"The primary focus of attention of all MEA officials is situation in Iraq," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. Asked if the abductors had demanded any ransom, the spokesman said no such demand has been made. "Every avenue will be pursued, every channel will be examined...everything will be done for the safety of the Indians in Iraq," he added.

The government had sent some blank passports to the Indian Embassy in Baghdad so that these people could travel back home without any hassle even if they don’t have proper travel documents whenever they are released by their abductors. The government will also issue them free air tickets.

Briefing reporters after an hour-long meeting, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a Delhi MLA and general secretary of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), said the delegation was told by MEA officials that these workers were being escorted to a safer place along with some Bangladeshi workers from the violence-hit zone by their employer earlier this week when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants waylaid them and took them in their custody.

At least five of those abducted workers have been identified as Manjinder Singh of Bhoewal, Jatinder Singh of Sialke, Sonu of Roopowali and Simran Singh of Babowal (all in Punjab) and Aman of Himachal Pradesh.

In a representation to the foreign minister, the delegation said some of those abducted had made telephone calls to their relatives in India. They have informed their near and dear ones that they were under the captivity of the ISIS representatives and need the assistance of an authorised representative of the Indian Government who could negotiate their release with the captors.

Crisis Management Group (CMG) on Iraq held two meetings during the day under the chairmanship of foreign minister to review the situation arising in the wake of the abductions. Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East) in the ministry, also discussed the situation with the Iraqi envoy to India.

The control room set up by the government had received 130 calls, including at least 15 from those trapped in Iraq.





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