The location of the 40 Indian construction workers held captive in Mosul town of strife-torn Iraq has been identified by Iraqi authorities, the government said on Thursday.
Asserting that it was doing everything possible to secure release of the kidnapped Indians, the government said Indian embassy in Baghdad was “persistently” following the matter with Iraqi authorities.
“We have been informed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry that they have been able to determine the location of where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
Asked about location of the kidnapped Indians, he refused to share information. “At this stage I will not be able to share information on either location of that place or what the Iraqi authorities had shared with us.”
On whether they were safe he said, “There is no safety in captivity.”
We have been informed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry that they have been able to determine the location of where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities
The workers, mostly from Punjab and other parts of northern India, were working on a construction project in Mosul in northern Iraq which has been captured by Sunni militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).
Mr. Akbaruddin said the Iraqi government has also confirmed kidnapping of the Indians. The initial information was based on inputs by Iraqi Red Crescent.
As concerns mounted about safety of the kidnapped Indians and 46 other nurses stranded Tikrit, another town captured by Sunni militants, the Crisis Management Group met twice. The meetings were chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Secretary East in-charge of Gulf region Anil Wadhwa also had two conversations with Iraqi Ambassador Ahmad Tahsin Ahmad Berwari, said Mr. Akbaruddin.
The MEA spokesperson said no ransom demands have yet been received.
Asked to share some details about the kidnapping, he only said there are “information” and “leads“.
“Every avenue will be pursued. Every channel will be examined. We will utilise every opportunity to ensure safety and security of our nationals,” he said.
On apprehensions of relatives of some Indians kidnapped and stranded in Iraq that it may be difficult for them to return as their passports had been taken away by their employers, Akbaruddin said documentation will not be an issue.
He said Indian mission in Baghdad continues to assist the Indians who would like to leave the country, even those who are from areas where security was not tenuous.
Earlier Ms. Swaraj said all efforts are underway to rescue the kidnapped Indians and all others stranded in Iraq.
“All efforts are underway (to rescue them). I am personally supervising the efforts. We are leaving no stone unturned to ensure their return,” she said.
India is in touch with various humanitarian agencies, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and Iraqi government to gather more information about the kidnapping.
About 10,000 Indian nationals are currently in Iraq and the government said some 100 were stranded in violence-hit areas in that country.
Government was also in touch with the 46 nurses who are stranded in Tikrit town, which was also taken over by ISIS militants. In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Crescent had contacted the nurses.
The MEA Spokesperson said it was difficult to use surface transport to rescue those stranded in violence-hit areas.
“In those areas, it is difficult to use surface transport We are looking at various options on this and we will examine the best possible option taking into consideration views of the local authorities as well the ground situation,” he said.
He said the round-the-clock control room set up here to provide information on Iraq has received a total of 130 calls including 15 from Iraq.
Meanwhile, former envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy arrived in Baghdad and would be holding meetings with Iraqi authorities.