The Red Crescent and the Tariq Noor ul-Huda construction company have made contact with insurgent commanders to secure the release of 40 Indian nationals being held captive near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a report citing diplomatic sources.
The informal negotiations centre on the release of the Indians, believed to be held by insurgents in a cotton factory near Mosul, and over a hundred other expatriates from South and East Asia, The Hindu reported today.
India's external affairs ministry said on Thursday that the Iraqi government has confirmed that the Indians are being held captive near Mosul, and that the local authorities had traced their location.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met the relatives of the abducted Indians – mostly construction workers from Punjab employed by Tariq Noor ul-Huda – in New Delhi, and later chaired two meetings of the Crisis Management Group.
She met Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Punjab and Kerala have the highest number of workers caught in the crossfire in Iraq – most of those from Kerala being nurses.
A highly-placed western source familiar with the negotiations being held with insurgent commanders told The Hindu that the likely evacuation route for them stretches east to Erbil, held by Kurdish forces, which is a major economic hub from where commercial flights continue to operate. The road, however, is held by several different militias, making a safe journey hard to guarantee at present.
While most of the 40 Indians in captivity in Mosul are from Punjab, the 46 nurses who are still working in a hospital in the ISIS-held town of Tikrit are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu; their fate is not so dire as that of the construction workers.
Speaking to The Hindu from Tikrit on Thursday, one of the nurses said members of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited them and handed over juice, cakes and telephone recharge coupons.
She confirmed that they were in contact with Indian embassy officials every two hours to update their situation. She said the firing had died down outside the hospital, but shops and the entire town remained closed.
However, she repeated that most of the nurses did not wish to return to India at present as they had not yet been paid salaries ranging from $600-$850 a month. Some of the more recent arrivals at the hospital have not been paid for four months.