VK Singh to Visit Iraq as India Steps up Efforts to Locate 39 Missing

IANS
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

With Mosul liberated from the Islamic State, India has activated various channels to locate the 39 Indians who were abducted by the terror group from the Iraqi city three years ago and is sending Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh to Iraq, an official said on Monday.

In response to a query, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said that as soon as the announcement of Mosul's liberation was made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Indian government activated various channels for locating the missing Indians.

He said that Singh will leave for Erbil.

"Ambassador of India to Iraq and our Consul General in Erbil have been instructed to continue the efforts to locate them on priority."

Baglay added that Iraqi authorities have conveyed that all cooperation would be extended and instructions have been issued by them to all relevant Iraqi agencies.

The development comes as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that her ministry was making all-out efforts to trace and facilitate the return of the 39 Indians.

Reacting to reports that the families of the Indian hostages were trying to locate their kin after Iraqi forces freed Mosul from the clutches of ISIS, Amarinder sought her active intervention in the matter. He said the families of the hostages were keenly awaiting the return of their kin.

"Assuring of all possible efforts by her ministry to bring back the Indians, who were construction workers taken into custody in 2014, Sushma said General V.K. Singh had been sent to Iraq to coordinate with the Iraqi government to facilitate the return of the Indians stuck there. She said she had also directed the Indian embassy to extend all help to the stranded Indians," a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) disclosed in Chandigarh.

Air India officials at the airports had also been instructed to facilitate their return, said Sushma, adding that her ministry had activated all available sources to trace the missing Indians, who were last heard of hiding in a church in Mosul, the spokesperson added.

While Sushma has held several meetings with the families of the hostages since the abduction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also been raising the issue with other countries in the Middle East region.

The Chief Minister said he was hopeful the 39 Indians would be back home soon, now that Mosul was no longer in the control of ISIS.

Baglay also said the liberation of Mosul "is an important milestone in the global war on terror, and India welcomes it".

Iraqi forces liberated Mosul on Sunday after 266 days of fierce battles, bringing to an end three years of IS rule.

Last month, Baglay said that the Indians were alive and "everything possible" was being done to ensure their safe return.

"The information we have so far is that they are alive because we have no other information to prove that they are not alive," Baglay told reporters on June 16.


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