Hostage crisis: Govt knocks on all doors

One escapes from abductors, contacts embassy

Hostage crisis: Govt knocks on all doors

India is “knocking on all doors” to ensure the safety of the 39 Indians, who continue to be held captive after being kidnapped from the jihadist-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

One of the 40 people kidnapped, managed to escape and get in touch with the Indian Embassy in Baghdad.   

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reviewed efforts being taken not only to secure safe release of the kidnapped people, but also to help other Indians leave Iraq. New Delhi, however, was reassured that all the hostages were safe. The 46 Indian nurses stranded in Tikrit, another jihadist-held city, were also reported to be safe. 

Modi instructed that any Indian, who wanted to return home from Iraq but is unable to pay for tickets, should be provided monetary assistance from the Indian Community Welfare Fund with the Embassy of India in Baghdad. So far, the government has helped 16 Indians to return home from Iraq after they decided to leave the West Asian country.

New Delhi has stepped up efforts to secure the release of the 39 other hostages. Efforts are on to start negotiation with the kidnappers, who are yet to formally make any demand for ransom. 

“We are knocking on all doors, all types of doors, front, back and trap,” the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, told journalists, in response to a query about New Delhi’s efforts to get the abducted released. 

He said that while the Indian Embassy in Baghdad was in touch with the Iraqi Government as well as other humanitarian agencies, New Delhi’s efforts to get the hostages released was not limited to Iraq. 

He, however, declined to elaborate on the efforts being made. Sources, however, said that New Delhi was working with the intelligence agencies of Iraq’s neighbouring countries, since some of them had contacts with the top leadership of the Sunni militant organisation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

The jihadists of the ISIL – an al-Qaeda offshoot – took control of Mosul and several other cities in Iraq in the last couple of weeks, outbeating the Iraqi Government’s armed forces.

India is also in touch with the United States, which is sending up to 300 “military advisors” to Iraq to help the country’s army repel the ISIL jihadists’ advance towards Baghdad. 

New Delhi has also requested Baghdad to ease its visa regime, which requires any foreigner exiting Iraq to use the same port from which he or she had entered the country. “This has caused some concern to those of our nationals who want to leave from the nearest port of exit or from land boundary; the matter has been taken up with Iraqi foreign ministry officials who are amenable and the issue is likely to be sorted out in coming days,” said Akbaruddin.

The meeting chaired by Prime Minister was also attended by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and top officials.

Indian embassies and consulates in the neighbourhood of Iraq had been asked to remain prepared to assist people, who might cross over from the conflict-hit country, and arrange necessary travel documents for them so that they could return home without hassles. 

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