Efforts continued on Saturday to secure the release of the 39 kidnapped Indians in Mosul town of strife-torn Iraq with the government remaining in touch with the countries in the region to resolve the crisis after identity of the captors were known.
Government said all the Indians in captivity were “unharmed” and it was “fully engaged” and “every possible effort” was being made to ensure their release.
As efforts were on to rescue all the Indians from the troubled areas in Iraq, Amnesty International India on Saturday claimed that fresh evidence has emerged about hundreds of Indians stranded in Najaf province of crisis-hit Iraq.
The human rights watchdog claimed it had spoken over the phone with some Indian workers working for an infrastructure and construction company who said they were in danger as their employers had “refused to return their passports”, thus rendering them unable to leave the Gulf country.
“Evidence has emerged which suggests that several hundred Indian nationals may be stranded in Najaf province of Iraq, unable to return home because their employer refuses to return their passports,” Amnesty International India said in a press statement.
Amnesty International India claimed that some of the Indians stranded in Najaf province were “awaiting a response from the Indian Embassy in Baghdad” after they texted their passport details to them on June 19.
“The employer holds all our passports and refuses to return them. We have been restricting ourselves to the company premises since the conflict began as we are scared. We just want to go home,” one of the workers reportedly told Amnesty International India.
Despite its repeated attempts to contact the three managers of the company over the phone, Amnesty International India said it could not get any response.
The government had on Friday said that 16 Indians stranded in the violence-hit areas of Iraq have been evacuated. Also, of the 40 Indian workers being held in captivity in Mosul town, one has managed to escape, the government had added.
There are also reports of 46 nurses trapped in Tikrit. Amnesty International India has meanwhile urged the government to pay “special” attention to ensuring the return of these Indians whose passports have been seized.
It also called upon militant outfit Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other armed groups to “immediately and unconditionally” release all unarmed civilians whom they are holding hostage.
The organisation has also urged the Kurdistan Regional Government and officials in countries bordering Iraq to provide refuge to civilians fleeing the fighting.