Kirkuk/New Delhi, 20 June-2014(AFP): Militants who have seized large swathes of territory In Iraq have released 48 foreigners, including four Turks, held captive for several days.There is no news of the 40 Indian workers, captured near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
48 foreign captives released, Indian hostages await help as situation remains tense
The released foreigners are construction workers from Turkey, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, who were helping build a hospital in the now insurgent-held city of Tikrit.
Militants have seized many foreigners, including Indians and more than 40 Turks. India claimed on Thursday that the 40 Indian nationals abducted from the northern Iraq city of Mosul are “safe” and that it knew the location where they are being held captive.
It also said that it is willing to explore all avenues to ensure their security.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said that the situation in Iraq doesn’t allow other Indians to come back to India, but when the situation is neutral, the government of India will take care of it.
India has also said that it knows the location of its workers kidnapped near Mosul, as many of their family members revealed they had talked about their abduction in phone calls till Sunday.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure their safe return,” Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said after meeting the families of some of the workers.
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).
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, according to the Spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry.
About 10,000 Indian nationals are currently in Iraq and the government said some 100 were stranded in violence-hit areas in that country.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, urging him to “intensify all diplomatic efforts required to ensure safety” of the Indian nationals and “secure their release”.
The Ministry said it was 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.
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken over vast swathes of territory as they advance on Baghdad, amid fears that the country could fall apart.
With details of the abduction sketchy, other families said they feared for the fate of the workers, who had been earning money on construction projects to send back home.