Abducted Indian escapes, India 'knocking on all doors'

Last Updated 20 June 2014, 14:00 IST
India said Friday it was "knocking on all doors" and not just in Iraq to free the Indian workers abducted there, as one of them escaped from the custody of suspected Sunni insurgents.

As the kidnap saga entered a second week, the external affairs ministry indicated that the government would go to any length to resolve its first major crisis.

"We are knocking on all doors... front doors, back doors and trap doors for freeing the 40 Indians (in Mosul)," ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said here. "Knocking on all doors does not just mean doors in Iraq." 

"We are working with Iraqi authorities," he said, but underlined that the situation was not easy.

The spokesman confirmed that one of the Indians had escaped and contacted the Indian embassy in Baghdad but did not give his present whereabouts.

"No option is off the table when lives of our nationals are involved," he said without elaborating.

Forty Indians working for a Turkish construction company were seized in Mosul a week ago after hardline Sunni insurgents took control of the area along with other key parts of Iraq.

The government reiterated Friday that all of them were safe but did not say if it knew where they were or who was holding them.

Most of those abducted belong to Punjab, whose Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal Thursday led a delegation of seven of the distraught families to New Delhi to urge the Narendra Modi government to act fast.

Separately, 46 Indian nurses - mostly from Kerala - remain trapped in Tikrit, the birthplace of the late Saddam Hussein, the spokesman said. He added that they were being provided food and water.

Friday's announcement followed a meeting Prime Minister Modi chaired on Iraq. In attendance were Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the heads of intelligence agencies.

Akbaruddin told the media that the Iraq issue was "high priority" for the government.
He said the land route to Mosul, one of the areas taken over by the Sunni insurgents, was "extremely difficult" and there was no air connectivity either.

Mosul is located about 400 km from Baghdad and Tikrit is 180 km away from the Iraqi capital.

Meanwhile, Paramjit Singh, whose brother is among the abducted in Iraq, told IANS in Hoshiarpur Friday that he had learnt that the kidnappers had separated the Muslims from non-Muslims.

Paramjit Singh said he last spoke to his younger brother, Karamjit Singh, June 15. He added that scores of youths from Punjab and Haryana may be stranded or held captive in Iraq.

A Haryana government spokesman said in Chandigarh that 87 people from the state, mostly young men, were indeed stranded in strife-torn Iraq. Twenty-four of them were from Yamunanagar district, 20 from Kurukshetra, 18 from Ambala and 16 from Karnal.

The Punjab government has released a list of 78 people who are missing, taken hostage or stranded in Iraq. Most are construction or skilled workers. Two of the abducted men are from West Bengal: Khokan Sikdar and Samar Tikadar. They belong to Nadia district.

One of them managed to telephone the family to say they were facing terrible hardships after being abducted along with other fellow workers by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul town.

"He was very anxious... I don't know why they have been kidnapped. I just want my husband to come back safely," Sikdar's wife Namita said.
(Published 20 June 2014, 12:13 IST)

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