Iraq not sure of fate of 39 Indians

Sushma Swaraj to meet Iraq Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al Jaafari today

Iraq Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al Jaafari will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today

Baghdad on Monday told New Delhi that it had no information whether the 39 Indians, who had been kidnapped by Islamic State terrorists from Mosul in northern Iraq three years ago, were still alive or not.

The person who escaped the Mosul city was identified as Harjit Masih who later claimed that the IS fighters shot them all dead.

Swaraj had earlier said that with the freeing of Mosul, the process to trace and rescue the missing Indians would be taken forward.

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Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has been accused of "misleading the nation, parliament and families" of the kidnapped Indians by the Congress, which says it may file a privilege motion.

India had sent Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh to Iraq to trace the missing Indians just after the liberation of Mosul from Daesh.

The remarks by Iraq's foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jafari is significant because Swaraj had said last week that, according to information available with the Indian government, the Indians were probably lodged in the Badush jail. However, media reports later said that the prison had been completely destroyed. He said the government initially said the Indians were in Mosul. He had spent the day in a series of appointments with his Indian counterpart, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and even called on Vice President Hamid Ansari. He said some IS-held areas were still being cleared.

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Meanwhile, family members of the missing Indians expressed pain over the Iraqi minister's failure to bring any information on them.

Ms Swaraj had told the families of the workers that an Iraqi official, quoting intelligence sources, had told Mr Singh they were made to work at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were put in a jail in Badush. "Iraq government and people are continuously following up", he said. "We will do our utmost in the case, but it may take time", he said.

Speaking on bilateral relations, Al-Jaafari said that he would look for help to rebuild the infrastructure of the liberated cities.

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