India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday that 40 India construction workers had been kidnapped from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The workers, originating largely from northern India, were reportedly picked up as the militants from the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the city, dislodging the Iraqi Army from the region.
Moving southwards from Mosul, around 40 Indian nurses have also found themselves on the frontline of Iraq’s raging civil war. However, unlike the construction workers, the nurses have been in contact with the NGO Red Crescent, which has relayed information that they are safe and in good spirits at their hospital.
The immediate priority for New Delhi is the safety of the 40 missing construction workers, and this as of now poses the first big challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Over the past few hours, it has been made clear that India’s diplomatic presence and reach in Baghdad is limited. With over 12,000 Indians known to be in Iraq, New Delhi is looking towards a situation where it may not be able to do all that much if any more kidnappings of its citizens take place amidst the possibility of the fighting arriving in Baghdad. Read More
The Iraq government has formally called on the United States government to launch air strikes against the Sunni insurgents who are rapidly advancing across the country towards the capital Baghdad, according to reports.
The 40 Indian workers who were untraceable in Iraq's Mosul town have been confirmed as kidnapped, prompting the government of India to launch all-out efforts to trace them. "Yes, 40 Indians, who were working with the Tariq Nur Alhuda company, have been kidnapped," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Wednesday.
However, no ransom demands have been made and the whereabouts of the kidnapped workers are unknown, Akbaruddin said. So far, there Indian government also has no clue about the kidnappers or any concrete information about those abducted apart from the fact that they are construction workers mostly hailing from Punjab. Most of the information has been gathered is through International Red Crescent and various other humanitarian organisations.
Meanwhile, the families of the kidnapped workers back in India are praying for their safe return. They have appealed to the Indian government to take all the necessary steps to bring the construction workers back home. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said his government is ready to bear the entire expenditure for their safe return.
Earlier, Syed Akbaruddin had said there had been no contact with the workers over the past two to three days, by government agencies.
The government of India responded to the news of the missing workers by immediately contacting the authorities in Iraq. In addition, former ambassador to Iraq Suresh Reddy will leave for the war-torn country later on Wednesday to deal with the situation. According to Akbaruddin, Reddy is well versed and knowledgeable with the area, and best equipped to handle things there. This move is to strengthen India's effectiveness in handling the situation in Iraq.
With around 46 Indian nurses already stranded in Tikrit, the Indian government is sparing no efforts for the rescue and safe return of its nationals. Akbaruddin has said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is personally "monitoring and reviewing" the situation there on a regular basis. Following a directive from Swaraj, all aspects of aid and assistance that can be provided to the Indians stuck in Iraq are being considered and reviewed. A 24 hour control room has been set up in the MEA.
Watch: MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin gives the official response to media queries on the evolving situation in Iraq