M A I N   N E W S

Iraq on the boil Families relieved as six stranded Gurdaspur youths return home safely
Hostages safe; captors identified
Ashok Tuteja/Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Gurdaspur, June 21
The Centre on Saturday said all Indians held hostage in the Mosul region of Iraq were "unharmed". Six Gurdaspur youths, who were stranded in the strife-torn Arab nation, have returned home safely. "Six youths, stranded in Iraq, returned to their homes late last night. My officers are constantly in touch with the boys and all possible help is being rendered to them," said Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Dr Abhinav Trikha.

In Delhi, the government said it has clear indication about the identity of the captors and "every possible effort" was being made to ensure the release of hostages.

Sources, however, declined to identify the abductors, saying it could endanger the lives of hostages. "We don't want to name and shame them (abductors)...after all, we are trying to bring our people back home safely," said sources. "The Indian hostages, most of whom are from Punjab, were unharmed as per the latest information provided by the Baghdad-based construction company for which they worked," said sources. One Indian, who escaped from the custody of the abductors, was in 'complete safety' and had reached Baghdad. 

His debriefing was on. No demand for ransom had been received from the abductors.

The Gurdaspur youths who have come back have been identified as Jaswant Singh of Balewal village, Shamsher Singh of Salo Chahal village, Satnam Singh of Natt village, Parhlad Singh of Aliwal village, Surinder Ram of Puranshala village, and Major Singh of Thikriwal near Qadian. SDM (Batala) Lovejit Kalsi has already got in touch with them, said the Gurdaspur DC.

Sources said India was in touch with influential countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, urging them to see if they could assist New Delhi in securing the release of its abducted nationals. A BJP delegation today met Iraqi Ambassador to India Ahmad Tahseen Ahmad Berwari and demanded that Indians stranded in various cities there be given assistance to return home safely.

The Iraqi envoy told the delegation that Mosul was not under the control of his government. However, Indians in the custody of militants were safe, he said.

Sources said 46 Indian nurses were still stuck in violence-affected Tikrit but the government did not have means to bring them to Baghdad as of now.

It is an established norm in the Gulf that either one can keep his/her passport or the local identify document under the contract with the employer. Therefore, many of the workers don't have their passports in their possession, said sources. Also, most workers are under contractual obligation to forfeit their salaries if they quit their job at a short notice. Nearly 10,000 Indians in Iraq were employed in Kurdistan or the port city of Basra.

Safe return: Punjab says will foot the bill
The Punjab Government has decided to bear the expenses for the safe return of all Punjabis stranded in Iraq. “Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told me today that all Punjabis in Iraq were safe,” said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Batala youth back
Not much has changed for Batala-based Jaswant (40), who returned from strife-torn Iraq on Friday. Already under debt, he now has to pay Rs 2 lakh to a fraudulent Batala-based travel agent.





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