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Efforts on for release of abducted Indians in Iraq

New Delhi: The Indian government is in touch with agencies and countries that can be of help in securing the release of Indians who were rounded up by suspected Sunni militants in Mosul town of violence-hit Iraq, official sources here said Sunday.

Iraq unrest
Members of radical ISIS group celebrate their victory in Mosul. PIC: AFP

They said that all efforts were being made to secure release of the 39 Indian workers. One of the Indians had escaped from captivity and was safe.

The government had said Saturday that the Indians in captivity in Iraq were unharmed.

It is understood that India is in touch with countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, to urge them to assist in freeing the Indians.

The Indians, who belong mostly to Punjab and Haryana states, were working in Mosul as construction workers, and as drivers or sanitary workers. They were abducted around a week ago by suspected militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who have overrun large parts of northern Iraq, taken over Mosul and Tikrit and are advancing towards Baghdad.

According to sources, the Indian government is aware of the identity of the captors who have taken the Indians hostage.

Officials, meanwhile, dismissed as speculative reports that the abducted Indians could be used as human shields.

They said that requests for assistance from Indian nationals in Iraq were being addressed round-the-clock.

The Indian mission would help the workers with obtaining passports to return, as their passports would have been taken away by the employers under the labour laws there.

Meanwhile, all the eight Indians who were in Baiji, where fighting is raging between the Sunni militants and the Iraqi government forces, have been evacuated to safer zones. Baiji is where Iraq's largest oil refinery is located.

In Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, there are around 1,350 Indians. The region is peaceful and relatively untouched by the violence raging elsewhere, but 49 of the Indians have said they want to return home, while in Najaf in the south, 28 Indians said they want to go back.

The sources said government was also in constant touch with the Indian nurses who are stranded in a hospital in Tikrit.

With no flights between Baghdad and Tikrit and Mosul, the only way to evacuate the Indians would be by the land route, which has its own risks. The nearest airport from Mosul is located in Erbil, nearly 90 km away and the capital of Kurdistan region. Once they are brought to Erbil, flying them out of Iraq would be no problem, the sources said.

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