Search for IS hostages to continue

Search for IS hostages to continue

With its “six sources” in the Middle-East denying the reports about killing of 39 Indians held hostage by the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, the Centre on Friday said it believes that the hostages are still alive and would not call off search operations on the basis of a comment by just one person.

Following the emergence of a report in a news channel based on interviews of two survivors from Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made identical statements in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha after concerns were expressed by MPs over the fate of the hostages. “Six different sources have informed the government that they have not been killed,” Swaraj said, adding that the media report was based on the statements of two Bangladeshis who quoted an escapee, Harjeet, as claiming that kidnapped Indians have been killed.

“There is no evidence (about Harjeet’s claim). The question is should I stop the search for these people on the basis of one person’s claim or should I continue with the exercise on the basis of six sources which have given in writing that they are not killed. I feel we should continue the search,” she said.

“Even if Harjeet is 99 per cent correct, there is one per cent chance. I will keep my faith in that one per cent and continue the searches for the hostages,” she said. Noting that the government was working in “adverse condition”, she said two more officers who can speak Arabic have been deployed for securing their release besides a senior IFS officer who is already on the job for the last five months.

Swaraj said she has shared the communication that vouches for the safety of the hostages with Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Harsimrat Kaur. However, she added, “I do not have any evidence about whether they are alive or dead.”

She said the government has no direct contact with the hostages. It was not the first time that reports appeared in media that the hostages were killed, she claimed.

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