Zee Media Bureau/Hemant Abhishek
New Delhi: With the situation worsening in violence-hit Iraq with every passing day, the worried families of the Indians being held captive in the strife-torn country met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday and were assured of their safety by her.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju apprised scribes on the rescue operations to bring back the hostages from Iraq, informing that the strategies have been put in place for the manoeuvre.
India had flown in officials to three Iraqi cities to help evacuate Indians wanting to return home and Swaraj met families of the captives. “I shared the written message that came from our ambassador in Iraq with families of the abducted. They were reassured,” she said.
Sushma Swaraj told reporters after the meeting that the information about Indians in the conflict zone has been collected through the Red Crescent and they are safe.
"It is natural for the families to be concerned. I showed them the letter from our ambassador there, which says the Indians in Iraq are safe," she said.
"We are in touch with them through Red Crescent, but we have not been able to establish direct contact with them so far, as there is constant firing on the streets. We are trying to get in touch with them directly," she said.
The minister, however, clarified that even if direct contact is established with the Indians there, the government may not be able to rescue them immediately due to the ongoing fighting.
"The families would feel assured if we are able to establish direct contact with their kin there (in Iraq), but we may not be able to evacuate them immediately," she said.
Syed Akbaruddin, the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted, “Assuaging concerns. Minister @SushmaSwaraj meets families of Indian nationals captive in Iraq to assuage concerns (sic).”
— Syed Akbaruddin (@MEAIndia) June 29, 2014
Informing about the Civil Aviation Ministry`s involvement in the rescue operation in Iraq, Raju said, “Strategies have been put in place, civil aviation is part of it.”
“Three Air India planes have been arranged for the purpose,” he added.
Earlier yesterday, the MEA informed that an Indian warship had been deployed in the Persian Gulf and kept on standby while the air force has also kept heavylift transport aircraft C17 and recently acquired C-130J Super Hercules on standby for any short notice evacuation operation.
As Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), closed in on capital Baghdad, MEA spokesperson said that officials from the ministry have been flown to Iraq to help in the evacuation of Indians from the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra "which are in relatively safe zones".