Govt confident of safe return of kidnapped Indians

Centre hopes to get abductees released from Iraq by next weekend
Last Updated 21 June 2014, 19:07 IST

Though 39 Indians kidnapped from jihadist-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq are yet to be freed, the government on Saturday appeared to be confident about resolving the situation and getting them released soon.

The government hopes to get the abductees released during the weekend or early next week. New Delhi has also been making preparations to fly them back to India, possibly through Erbil International Airport in autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Syed Akbaruddin, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, told journalists that all the 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq remained “unharmed” according to the latest report received in New Delhi.

Baghdad’s envoy to New Delhi, Ahmed Tahseen Ahmed Berwari, told a TV agency that the Governments of Iraq and India were working closely to ensure the release of the abducted Indians.

New Delhi is also understood to be in touch with the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are perceived to be having considerable influence on the leadership of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al-Qaeda offshoot that has taken over Mosul, Tikrit and several other cities of the West Asian country.

Though New Delhi has not yet officially held the ISIS responsible for the abduction of the Indians, official sources on Saturday said the government has received indications about the identity of the kidnappers.

A group of 41 Indian employees — mostly from Punjab — of construction firm Tariq Nur Al Huda Company were engaged in building a stadium at Mosul, when the northern Iraqi city fell to the advancing militants of the ISIS.

While 40 of them were initially reported to have been kidnapped, it was later learnt that one of them — Harjeet Singh Bassi from Gurdaspur in Punjab — managed to escape. He is now at a United Nations’ facility at Erbil in Kurdistan and in touch with the Embassy of India in Baghdad.

New Delhi is understood to be working on a plan to fly out the abductees through the Erbil International Airport in autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq once they are set free.
Erbil is just 82 km away from Mosul.

The city — like the rest of Kurdistan Region — is still under the control of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government and unaffected by the conflict between jihadists and Iraqi forces.

New Delhi has also requested Baghdad to ease its visa regime, which requires any foreigner exiting Iraq should do so through the same port he or she had enter the country through.

Suresh Reddy, who was India’s envoy to Iraq till recently, has been in Baghdad since Thursday to help his successor Ajay Kumar to deal with the situation.

Reddy is understood to have contacted the key officials of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, apart from being in touch with top brass of the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

(Published 21 June 2014, 19:07 IST)

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