Forty Indian workers have been kidnapped by suspected militants in Iraq’s Mosul city, confirmed the External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference, ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the Iraq Red Crescent Movement has confirmed the abduction of 40 Indian nationals who were working for Tariq Noor al Huda company. He added that the country has not received any ransom call yet. No information regarding their whereabouts is available.
“We have not received any call of any nature from anyone indicating about ransom or about taking Indians in custody in Iraq.”
The ministry did not say who had seized the workers although earlier media reports blamed it on the Sunni insurgents who have seized key cities in violence-hit Iraq.
The abducted nationals are largely from northern part of India, especially Punjab, but I cannot be precise, added Akbaruddin.
He further assured that India is in touch with humanitarian agencies and the Iraqi government over the kidnapping.
Earlier in the day, the External Affairs Ministry had said that the 40 Indian workers remain “uncontactable”.
Mentioning that about a hundred Indians are stuck in the Middle East country, Akbaruddin vowed to leave no stone unturned in their quest to help every single Indian in Iraq. He said a contingency unit is working in Delhi to tackle the situation.
It is not appropriate to take surface route to rescue Indians, the MEA spokesperson said, adding the contingency unit is mulling over a variety of options.
Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants have overrun the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, threatening the security and territorial integrity of the country. They are proceeding towards Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the 46 Indian nurses – most of them from Kerala – who are stranded in Tikrit, have already been looked up by the Iraqi Red Crescent at the request of the Indian government, Akbaruddin said. He added that several of them prefer to stay back in Iraq.
He said the ministry has received 60 phone calls from families of Indians in Iraq since Tuesday evening.
Sushma Swaraj has been monitoring and reviewing the situation on a regular basis, Akbaruddin said, adding the External Affairs Minister telephoned the family members of the Punjabi youth this morning and assured her help in rescuing them.
Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), MEA, is spearheading maintaining contacts with international organisations, he further said.
Saying that India has no intention to shut down its embassy in Iraq, Akbaruddin said the country is, in fact, increasing its embassy’s effectiveness.
India’s former ambassador to Iraq, Suresh Reddy, will be sent to Baghdad to “assist the embassy in its efforts”, said Akbaruddin.