Two Indians working in Libya were “detained” by an unidentified group in Libya’s conflict-ridden Sirte, New Delhi said on Wednesday. This comes almost a month and a half after two Indians were abducted from the same area by a group claiming allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). They are yet to be freed.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Vikas Swarup identified the two Indian nationals as Pravash Ranjan Samal from Odisha and Ramamurthy Kosanam from Andhra Pradesh. While it is not yet clear how they were kidnapped, Indian officials in Tripoli are trying to ascertain the facts.
Swarup said, “It has been learnt by our mission in Tripoli that two Indian nationals, Pravash Ranjan Samal, hailing from Odisha and Ramamurthy Kosanam of Andhra Pradesh have apparently been taken from Ibn-e-Sina in Sirte where they had been working, and detained. Our mission is making further inquiries for confirmation of the incident and is in touch with the local people, who can help in securing release of the two Indian nationals. The matter has also been taken up at diplomatic level. All efforts are being made to ensure their well-being and to secure early release of our nationals,” he said.
Preliminary details point to the involvement of groups owing allegiance to the IS, which have gained effective control in the Sirte area in Libya.
Samal, 47, is a biomedical engineer hailing from Odisha’s Kendrapara and worked in a hospital in Ibn-e-Sina in Sirte.
Samal’s brother Bibhu Nayak said he got to know about the abduction of his brother from TV. “We are hardly in touch. He calls once in a few months. He last visited us three years ago,” said Nayak. He added that Samal is married to a Filipino national and has two sons, aged 14 and 17. Samal’s mother was yet to be told about his abduction, he said.
New Delhi is worried about the repurcussions of the abduction, since this takes the number of captive Indians to four.
The two Indians, who are still in captivity since they were abducted on July 29, have been identified as T Gopikrishna, an assistant professor in computer science, and K Balram, an assistant professor in English, who worked with Sirte University’s Jufra branch. Two weeks after they were abducted, government sources had indicated that their release was delayed as their captors are verifying their antecedents from their sources in Jufra. However, even six weeks later, there has been no progress.
“The situation on ground is much more difficult than we initially expected. That is one of the reasons why there is no progress in the release of these two Indians who have been detained for the last one and half months,” a government source said.
Indian ambassador to Libya Azar A H Khan, who was based in D’jerba in Tunisia, is now camping in Tripoli. Earlier, his second-in-command, Mohammad Rashid Khan, was the lone Indian diplomat in Tripoli, since the embassy was moved out of the country last year owing to the conflict.
The two teachers previously abducted were among four Indians abducted on July 29, when they were on their way from Sirte to Tunis. They were travelling in different cars when they were stopped at a spot nearly 50 km from Sirte. Two of them, Lakshmikant Ramakrishna and Vijay Kumar, were released on July 31 as some of the captors turned out to be their students.
With ENS, Bhubaneswar