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Updated: June 19, 2014 02:55 IST
EXCLUSIVE

40 Indians in ISIS custody ‘safe’

Praveen Swami
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Indian workers near Mosul.
Special Arrangement
Indian workers near Mosul.

The brother of a Punjab resident, reported to have been among the 40 Indian citizens held hostage by jihadists in Iraq, has told The Hindu that his sibling and the group are safe and have been promised that they will be allowed to leave once fighting in the Mosul area dies down.

“Nishan Singh, my brother, last spoke to me for a couple of minutes today,” Fatehgarh Churian resident Charanjit Singh said. “He told me his cellphone battery was running out, so he couldn’t talk for long. He said he and his co-workers from India were all safe and not held hostage.”

“ISIS people have told the Indians they are afraid that if they [Indians] leave, they will be killed by Iraqi or Iranian security forces and the act will be blamed on the jihadists,” Mr. Charanjit Singh added. “However, they say they will release them if someone responsible from the Indian military or government comes to collect them. Else, they have been told to stay for as long as they like and promised that the ISIS will get them the wages they are owed.”

Charanjit Singh said he received several phone calls and WeChat instant messages from Mr. Nishan Singh since the construction site he was working at, two kilometres outside the war-torn city of Mosul, was taken over by insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria early last week. Late last week, after ISIS fighters took over the area, Indian workers were moved into a building on the site by ISIS insurgents.

ISIS fighters shift 40 Indians to warehouse near Mosul

Charanjit Singh, brother of one of the 40 Indians reportedly held hostage in Iraq, said he received several phone calls and WeChat instant messages from his brother, Nishan Singh, since the construction site he was working at was taken over by insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria early last week.

“I asked Nishan to leave Iraq immediately when fighting broke out in Mosul last week,” Mr. Singh said, “but he said he couldn’t leave, as he was owed five months wages. Later, he said he couldn’t leave, because company managers had fled and there was no transport.”

Late last week, after ISIS fighters took over the area, Indian workers were moved into a building on the site by ISIS insurgents, who placed them under guard but provided them with food and water. The men were told it was too dangerous for them to be allowed to travel to Baghdad, but would be allowed to go when the fighting died down.

The 40 men, mostly residents of Gurdaspur, Majitha and Amritsar in Punjab, have since been moved to a cotton warehouse 25 km from Mosul, Mr. Singh said.

Mr. Singh said his brother, now 28, had recently got married to a local girl Kulwinder Kaur and had earlier worked in Dubai, earning qualifications as a crane operator. He lost his job and grabbed the opportunity to work in Iraq made available to him by a labour agent in Punjab 10 months ago.

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