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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Iraq crisis: 39 captive Indians may now be in Syria

Saikat Datta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 24, 2014
First Published: 01:07 IST(24/7/2014) | Last Updated: 09:04 IST(24/7/2014)

There is growing concern about the fate of the 39 Indian workers in Iraq as the latest reports received from various foreign interlocutors paint a confusing picture for the authorities in New Delhi.

A report received recently from Iraqi tribal leaders serving as intermediaries between New Delhi and the ISIS leadership has revealed that the workers could have been shifted to Syria to face a Sharia court in a region held by the militants.

Meanwhile, reports received from interlocutors in Saudi Arabia contradict this version. The Saudis have told their Indian counterparts that the workers are still in Mosul and are being employed as labourers by the ISIS. These contradictions have further muddied New Delhi’s efforts to secure the Indians’ release, top government sources told HT.

The government is also examining the account of Harjeet Masih, one of the 40 kidnapped Indian workers who managed to escape from the ISIS. He has told authorities that there was a lot of firing and shelling when the ISIS attacked Mosul. According to him the workers were trapped and a number of bodies fell on him when the firing began, which gave him an opportunity to escape.

The Iraqi tribal interlocutors are clueless as to why the trapped Indians have to face a Sharia court. “This version has been around for a few days. Obviously the fog that descends on such situations appears to have made clarity difficult in this case too,” a senior external affairs ministry official told HT.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a major ally to India in securing the release of the trapped workers. A few years ago, former National Security Adviser and West Bengal governor MK Narayanan had developed a close relationship with Prince Turki Bin Faisal Al Saud, who headed Saudi intelligence for 23 years.

“This relationship came handy when the Saudis agreed to deport Zabiuddin Ansari — one of the alleged planners behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks — in June 2012,” a senior intelligence official said.


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