Govt on overdrive to rescue Indians trapped in Iraq

    NEW DELHI (TIP): The new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, June 19 scrambled to secure the release of 40 Indians being held in war-torn Iraq but asserted it was doing its “very best” to ensure their safety in the strife-torn country. While the ministry of external affairs said that it had information on the location where the Indians are being held captive, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj — who met families of some of the abducted Indians – said the government would leave no stone unturned to free the Indian workers. The mass abductions have arguably presented the new government with the first big challenge since it assumed power last month. Most of the abducted Indians, working for a Turkish construction company, hail from Punjab though a few are from Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

    “I am personally mulling over all options. The government is making all kinds of efforts. We are not leaving any stone unturned,” Swaraj told reporters. “I am personally supervising this…I want to assure the families that the government and I will try our very best… make every effort,” she added. The government has already dispatched a former ambassador to Baghdad to coordinate rescue efforts in Iraq where large parts have been overran by Sunni insurgents. External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said during briefing, “We do have an understanding of the location (of the workers).

    Given that the matter is underway, at this stage, I will not be able to share details of their location and what Iraqi authorities have shared with us”. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Himachal Pradesh counterpart Virbhadra Singh appealed to the Centre to ensure the safe return of the abducted Indians. Badal has said he is willing to pay a ransom to gain the freedom of the workers from Punjab. Earlier in the day, Sushma Swaraj met a delegation of families of seven of the abducted Indians.

    “The 40 men are safe… When the situation normalises, we will try to get them released,” she told the delegation accompanied by Badal. Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh said that the government has so far learnt that at least eight persons hailing from different parts of the state are missing in Iraq. “We are concerned about the safety of the all Himachal employed in Iraq,” he added. Official sources said, at least 16 residents of Haryana are believed to be stranded in strife-torn Iraq.

    Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa also sought the Prime Minister’s personal intervention to secure safety of 46 Indian nurses, including six from the state, trapped in Iraq. In Jammu, the family-members of Rajesh Kumar, 34, informed that his phone is switched off for the last one week. “We are constantly trying but his phone is switched-off for one week. It has never happened before,” a sobbing Reema, his wife, said. Eight migrants from Gorakhpur and Deoria in Uttar Pradesh are feared stuck in the Iraq turmoil.

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