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Iraq crisis: Government turns to Red Crescent, Saudi to secure release of abducted Indians

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting that broke out on June 10.

iraq-protest People staged demonstration against terror attacks in Iraq in New Delhi on Sunday. (Source: PTI)

Indian government on Sunday said it was in constant touch with International Red Crescent in Iraq, countries of the region and all other concerned who can offer help in securing release of 39 Indian construction workers who were kidnapped from Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city seized by Sunni militants.

Sources said government continued to be in active engagement and was doing everything possible to ensure release of the Indians.

40 Indians were abducted from Mosul and one of them had fled from captivity and had shared various details about the captors to the Indian authorities which on Saturday indicated that they had come to know about the abductors.

Government has already sought help from a number of countries in the region besides Iraqi authorities, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and various other humanitarian agencies working in the trouble-torn country to resolve the crisis.

Iraq is witnessing serious strife with Sunni militants, backed by al Qaeda, capturing two key cities and marching towards Baghdad.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting that broke out on June 10.

The sources said government was also in constant touch with the 46 nurses who are stranded in a hospital in Tikrit, another violence-affected city which also fell to the Sunni militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

It has already taken over several parts of Iraq and was advancing towards Baghdad.

The nurses are in a hospital and food was being provided to them.

A total of 120 Indians were in violence-hit areas in the oil-rich Gulf nation out of which 16 have already been evacuated and one of those kidnapped has fled from captivity. Now 103 Indians remained in the conflict zone including 46 nurses and 39 Indians in captivity.

The sources said securing release of the kidnapped Indians and moving remaining others from the conflict zone was government’s top priority.

Sources said government was offering assistance to a group of Indians, which, according to Amnesty International, was stranded in Najaf. The Indian Embassy in Baghdad was in touch with the company which reportedly refused to return passports to the Indian employees.

They said places like Najaf, Basra and Baghdad were free from any violence but noted that Indian embassy will provide assistance if Indians living in these areas also want to leave the country.

Former envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy, who was sent to Iraq, was also holding extensive talks with Iraqi authorities and other concerned organisations to secure release of the Indians.

India is understood to have requested Saudi Arabia also to help secure the release of Indians.

However, the sources indicated that issues between employees and employers should be seen as labour-related disputes and should not be linked with government’s efforts to evacuate the stranded citizens in conflict zones.

As per estimate, 10,000 Indians are in Iraq and most of them were living in violence-free areas of Kurdistan and Shia-dominated areas.

Around 28 Indians working in a company in Najaf, which is not affected by violence, have also expressed their desire to return to India and government was helping them. A total of 1,000 Indians are working in that company.

Another lot of 49 Indian employees of a power sector company in Northern Iraq conveyed to Indian Mission that they want to return to India and government was also in touch with the company.

The government has also decided to provide financial assistance through Indian Community Welfare Fund to those Indians who are indigent and want to return to India.

India has also requested Iraq to lift restriction on the visa norm that if a person comes to the country through a port of entry then he will have to go back though the same port of entry.

The issue has been taken up with Iraqi authorities so that trapped Indians can cross Iraqi border to neighbouring countries through nearest land boundary.

Instructions have also been issued to Indian missions in countries around Iraq to take up the matter with their host governments to facilitate movement by those who wish to cross the land boundary from nearest place of their stay.

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