New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today met with the families of 39 Indians who have been kidnapped by the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq in 2014.
She said on the day Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared Mosul liberated from the ISIS, she asked Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh to go to Erbil, a city in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
The fall of Mosul marked the end of the Iraqi half of the ISIS rule, which also includes territory in Syria.
Ms Swaraj said sources in Iraq told Mr Singh the missing Indians have been most likely kept in a jail in Badush in northern Iraq, where fighting is still going on.
“We called all family members of those who were abducted in Iraq. I have already met them nine-ten times, but this time the situation was different as the Iraqi prime minister declared that Mosul has been liberated from the ISIS. That very day I told VK Singh to go to Iraq and try to evacuate our people,” Ms Swaraj said.
Ms Swaraj said she has asked Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar to speak with the Iraqi foreign minister as well as the foreign ministers of other nations who could help in freeing the kidnapped Indians.
She said though eastern Mosul has been liberated, the Iraqi forces are still checking some buildings and civilians cannot enter the area.
According to Ms Swaraj, sources in Iraq told General VK Singh the kidnapped Indians had been working at a hospital construction site, from where they had been shifted to a farm, and finally to Badush jail. They said more information will come only after fighting at Badush ends.
In June, the government had said the 39 Indian construction workers, mostly from Punjab, were alive and “everything possible” was being done to ensure their safe return.
“The information we have so far is that they are alive because we have no other information to prove that they are not alive,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Baglay had told reporters.