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NEW DELHI: The process of handing over of the four citizens was completed almost two and half months after the visiting Deputy Prime Minister of Syria, Walid Al Moallem, on January 13, revealed to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Syrian government had arrested four Indians who they suspected were connected to the Islamic State (IS).
In a press conference after his meeting with Ms. Swaraj, Mr. Moallem had claimed that the four were associated with the Islamic State. However on Sunday, a senior Indian diplomat from Damascus told The Hindu over telephone that the four were found to be in fact “illegal immigrants.” He, however, declined to share more details.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj later tweeted, “We have secured release of four Indians from Syria. Welcome home Arun Kumar Saini, Sarvjit Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Joga Singh.”
However, Syrian Ambassador to India, Riad Abbas, told The Hindu that the Indians were in custody of the Syrian government and therefore releasing them was a smooth affair. “We are happy that India has received its citizens. This could have been done faster,” Mr Abbas told The Hindu.
However, diplomats on both sides told The Hindu that additional investigation is necessary to understand how the four Indians ended up in the custody of the Syrian government.