Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar
New Delhi: Around 40 Indians working on a construction project near oil-rich Iraqi city of Mosul have gone missing. While reports claimed that they were abducted by suspected ISIS insurgents, the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi says that they are `uncontactable`.
Mostly construction workers, they lost contact with authorities while they were being evacuated from Mosul which has seen pitched battle between ISIS and Kurds. The area is dominated by Kurds but was captured by ISIS before being driven out by the Kurd militia.
"There are 40 Indians in Mosul whom we have not been able to contact. Despite our best efforts at this stage... They remain uncontactable," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said today.
On reports that they were abducted, he said, "We cannot confirm it. However, they are uncontactable."
Importantly, Akbaruddin added that there were no reports of any Indian being targeted or involved in any violent incident in Iraq.
"The violence there is not targeted at Indian nationals. We are just caught in the cross-fire. At this stage we have no reports, no confirmation of any Indian national being involved in any violent accident," he said.
The government of India is finding it difficult to track the workers as they were directly recruited by contractors without registration, reports said.
46 Indian nurses – most of them from Kerala - are also stranded in Tikrit, the hometown of late Saddam Hussein.
India has managed to provide assistance to them. “In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Crescent had contacted 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit and provided them assistance,” Akbaruddin said.
As per reports, many of them want to leave the city but are unable to do so as the town is now under the control of ISIS. Speaking to a news channel, one of them said that police and the Iraqi army have fled and they have been left behind.
Kerala Chief Minister Ommen Chandy has personally spoken to the nurses and assured help. In total, around 100 Indians are said to be stranded in the region.
The MEA has set up a 24-hour control room at its HQ in New Delhi to monitor situation in Iraq.
It is also in touch with Iraqi authorities to ensure of safety of Indian nationals and has decided to sent former Indian envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy – who is known to have deep contacts in the country – to Baghdad to help the embassy there.
“To strengthen embassy,sending seasoned diplomat Suresh Reddy, who travels to Baghdad to assist embassy in its efforts,” Syed Akbaruddin said.
National security advisor A K Doval is coordinating the rescue effort.
Meanwhile ISIS militants are closing in on Baghdad even as the US and Iran mull ways to help the Iraqi government in its efforts to fight the heavily armed ISIS raiders.
Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a breakaway al Qaeda faction, aims to establish a Sunni Islamist state in West Asia. ISIS has overrun large swathes of area in northern Iraq, killing hundreds of Shia troops in its march to Baghdad.
External Affairs Ministry Delhi Control Room: +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 7905, +91 11 2301 4104. Email: email@example.com.
Indian embassy in Baghdad: +964 770 444 4899, +964 770 484 3247