A friend of one of the 39 Indians currently in ISIS custody in strife-torn Iraq has claimed that there was an attempt by the militants to release them nine days ago, but their route was obstructed due to heavy firing and bomb blasts in the region.
Speaking to The Indian Express from Baghdad, Major Singh, 28, said, “My friend called me and told me that they were all being taken to Ebril from Mosul when their vehicles were obstructed by heavy firing and two blasts. I have lost contact with them for over nine days as their phones are switched off. The militants asked them to get off and run. They ran in groups of two and three and were later rounded up by the militants who have presently housed them at a garments factory.”
A native of Punjab, Singh had left for Iraq three years ago and was working with a German company involved in building a hospital there. Two months ago, Singh quit his job and currently he is working as a chef at a hotel in Baghdad.
Singh said, “I have been in touch with some of my friends who are presently in the custody of the ISIS. They worked with me at the construction company in Mosul. I left because the pay was not great and have asked them to leave too. They told me they would return home this year for Diwali, and then quit the job and look for something else. I wish they are freed by then.”
He said, “When the attack took place, they told me that the militants had taken them into custody since their employers had ran away. They had nowhere to go. They claim the militants have been giving them food and water and other facilities. They said they were being well looked after.”
Singh claimed the only reason his friends chose to stay back at Mosul was to earn more money. When reached for his comments, India’s special envoy to Iraq Suresh K Reddy said, “I cannot comment on this information. But we are making all possible efforts to expedite the release of the kidnapped nationals.”
2,200 Indians want to return: MEA
Around 2,200 Indians in Iraq have expressed their desire to leave the strife-torn nation for home and they are likely to reach India in 36 to 48 hours even as 200 others arrived here early on Sunday.
Four mobile teams of six persons each have been placed in non-conflict zones – Najaf, Karbala and Basra apart from Baghdad – and they have collected details of those Indians who want to return home. Of these, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said 1,600 were being provided tickets by the government through facilitation process of the Baghdad mission and the rest by their companies.
The spokesperson said that there were 10 commercial flights available from Baghdad to various points in the Gulf and the government was using all seats that were available on these flights. In addition, the Centre was commissioning special flights of Iraqi Airways from other areas.
Referring to the easing of the situation, Akbaruddin said approximately 480 calls were received in control rooms in Delhi and Baghdad and that it was left on individuals to decide whether they want to come back. Now, the calls have come down from 60 to 80 calls to 4 to 6 calls a day, reflecting easing anxiety and concern. (ENS)