Syria has arrested four Indians who had gone to that country allegedly to fight alongside the Islamic State (IS), Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al Moualem said on Wednesday. Moualem, who is also the foreign minister and on a three-day visit to India, said “the young men” had entered through Jordan and were arrested before they could join the outfit.
“We have arrested four Indians who had come to Syria to fight alongside IS. They are currently in Damascus jail. We have asked Indian authorities to come and see them and take them back,” Moualem said, stressing that cooperation on the front of counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing was one of the main objectives of the visit.
As many as 23 Indians, six of whom are dead, were suspected to be fighting alongside IS. The fresh arrests could take the count to 27.
Moualem also said that Syria was in no position to help India vis-a-vis the 39 Indians who are suspected to be in IS captivity in Iraq. “They are in IS captivity. I am sorry, we can’t do anything. You need to ask Erdogan (Turkish President),” said Moualem.
The minister attacked Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for fomenting a crisis in Syria and categorically accused them of supporting terror groups. He expressed gratitude towards Russia for helping Syria fight against IS. “We are grateful to Russia for military interference in the region. Because of their intervention, 20 bastions (in control of IS) have been liberated. If this continues, we will soon see positive results,” Moualem said.
He added that what Russia had achieved in three months was 10 times of what US had achieved in 18 months. “It is also self-defence for Russia as Chechen terrorists are fighting alongside IS,” he said.
Moualem said his interaction with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and NSA Ajit Doval was “productive”, and the crisis in Syria was discussed. “We believe that terrorism does not belong to any country or nation. What is happening around the world is impacting Syria,” Moualem said.
He also accused France and the US for supporting terrorism. “We have seen the effect and impact of terrorism on those who support terrorism such as France, US and Saudi Arabia. That is why international cooperation on terrorism is important. Our point of view has been conveyed to India and we heard complete support from the government,” Moualem said.
He added that the two countries discussed bilateral relations, economic ties and the need to “revive the old ties between the two countries”.
Moualem said Syria would like India to be part of the solution in his country, but did not want its military or diplomatic interference in the region. He said Syria could do with help in terms of food and medicines at the moment. This is the first visit by the top political leadership from Syria since 2008.