After the central government formally acknowledged that 40 Indians have been kidnapped at Mosul in Iraq, panic gripped families of the victims here. At least one relative claimed to have got a call from foreign minister Sushma Swaraj promising all help, though that was before the kidnapping was confirmed. Their fears have increased now.
The abducted Indians worked for a Turkish construction company, the foreign ministry said. Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said there had been no contact with the kidnappers, and no ransom demand had been received. Over the past week, Sunni militants from the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have overrun Mosul and seized wide swathes of territory as they storm towards the capital of Baghdad in a civil war against Iraq's Shia-dominated government.
It was not immediately clear when the Indian workers were abducted. Relatives in Amritsar said they had received phone calls from some of the workers on Sunday, five days after Mosul was captured. The six families that HT got in touch with said all the men had gone to Iraq together and were there since 11 months.
Gurpinder Kaur, who is hoping for rescue of her 24-year-old brother Manjinder Singh, said in Amritsar, "In the evening, we saw on television that the ministry of external affairs (MEA) confirmed the kidnapping. Since then, we have been worried. We don't know what exactly is happening." At least six men, including Manjinder, Jatinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Harsimran and Sonu, were among those who worked there, she added.
Claiming that foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had called her on Wednesday morning, Gurpinder, a schoolteacher said, "We were happy that the minister had called us and promised support. But now with the kidnapping reports coming in, we want that India must mount pressure on Iraq for rescuing them." Gurpinder had written to Swaraj a few days ago seeking help.
On Wednesday, the families gathered at Bhoewal village and offered prayers at a local gurdwara. Ranjit Kaur, mother of Jatinder Singh, said, "My son and the others had all gone there for a better future. But the situation in Iraq is horrifying."
There are about 10,000 Indian citizens working and living in Iraq, but only about 100 are in violent areas, Akbaruddin said in Delhi.