Govt assures kin of IS hostages' safety

Virender Singh remains in captivity of the Islamic State militants in faraway Iraq.
His anxious wife Manjit Kaur travelled all the way from Jalandhar in Punjab to Delhi on Tuesday to know if the goverment could make any progress in securing the release of her husband held hostage by the terrorists.

And she found in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj someone who had to go through similar distress about 30 years ago.

As agonised members of families of the captive 40 Indians met her in New Delhi, Swaraj told them that she could feel the trauma they were going through, as she herself experienced the same in 1984, when hijackers had kidnapped a plane which had her husband Swaraj Kaushal onboard.

Swaraj Kaushal was governor of Mizoram and also member of Rajya Sabha. “I can understand their agony, as I had the similar experience for 48 hours when a plane on which my husband was travelling was hijacked in 1984. I share the trauma that they are going through for the past five months,” Swaraj told journalists.

Swaraj’s husband Kaushal was onboard the Indian Airlines flight from Srinagar to Delhi, which was hijacked by Sikh militants in August 1984. The plane was released after almost 48 hours.

“She told us how she felt when the plane which had her husband onboard had been hijacked. She assured us that the government would leave no stone unturned to get back my husband as well as all others who were now in the custody of the militants in Iraq,” said Manjit.

The minister told journalists that the government had received information from its sources in Iraq that the 40 Indians, who had been kidnapped by the IS on June 15, remained unharmed in the custody of the militants.

She also said that the Indian government had no direct contact with the hostages or with their captors, but “sources” conveyed to New Delhi that the IS militants had been forcing them to do labour. She said that the government of India at present had no reason to suspect or believe anything contrary to the information received from the “sources”.

The IS militants kidnapped 40 Indian construction workers shortly after taking over the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in mid-June. Swaraj on Tuesday said that the MEA would soon send another diplomat to Iraq to help secure the hostages release .  Suresh Reddy, New Delhi’s former envoy to Baghdad, had been sent to help incumbent ambassador Ajay Kumar.

Reddy is understood to be now camping in Erbil in Kurdistan and is coordinating with Kurdish authorities as well as the government of Iraq and other agencies to secure the release of the abducted.

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