More reports on: Defence general

41 Indian workers in Mosul remain untraceable

18 June 2014

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj today directly called the families of some 41 young Indians - mostly from Punjab - who have disappeared while working on a construction site at Mosul in Iraq.

Swaraj assured the families that she was personally monitoring the situation and would spare no effort in rescuing them even as a spokesperson from her ministry told the media that the youngsters were ''uncontactable''.

The family members had earlier urged the government to accelerate their efforts for bringing the stranded boys home, besides offering prayers in Sikh shrines. 

Mostly construction workers, they lost contact with authorities while they were being evacuated from the oil-rich town of Mosul, which has seen pitched battle between ISIS and Kurds.

The area is dominated by Kurds. It was briefly captured by ISIS before the Kurdish militia regained control.

"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."

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.

Apart from the construction workers, 46 Indian nurses most of them from Kerala - are stranded in Tikrit, the hometown of the country's late dictator Saddam Hussein. But India has managed to provide some 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 (See: Indian nurses stranded in Iraq).

Reports say 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.

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