Food, fuel and water are running out in Iraq’s second largest city, causing thousands to flee ahead of the air strikes many fear will precede a government counter-offensive to retake cities captured by Islamist insurgents earlier this month. Escaping Mosul residents interviewed by The Hindu on Sunday said power supply was down to two hours a day, while petrol and cooking gas were not available.

At least 39 Indian construction workers are believed to be trapped in the city, being held under guard by Islamist insurgents.

Local residents leaving the city told The Hindu that migrant workers had been forced to build defensive earthworks on Mosul’s outskirts. Fatah Hassan, who fled Mosul three days ago, told The Hindu that he had visited a construction site where Indians worked and found that insurgents had set up a base there.

Husain Atiyah, a truck driver, also recalled seeing Indians at a construction site on Mosul’s suburbs — some easily identifiable as Sikhs by their bright turbans. “I had talked to some of them,” he said. “I have no idea where they are now, though.”

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