A month after they were taken hostage by masked Islamic State (IS) gunmen in Libya, the government has no contact with the abductors and have now also lost its connection to the mediators who were helping secure their release. Two of four professors abducted on July 29, 50 km from Sirte — which is firmly under IS control — continue to remain in custody.
"The two professors from Hyderabad may be being used by IS to teach English and computer skills to their cadre," an official monitoring the development said. He admitted that there is no contact now even with Sirte university officials who mediated and helped release two of the four hostages within 48 hours of their abduction because the IS has destroyed communication lines in Sirte which they captured in March this year.
The government is concerned about the safety of T Gopikrishna who has been teaching computer science at the Jufra branch of Sirte University since 2007 and Balram Kishan who has taught English since 2011. "Intelligence agencies who spoke at length with Vijaykumar and Lakshmikant after they returned to Karnataka from Libya said that the IS threatened to send the two Hyderabad-based professors back in coffins," an official revealed.
Indian ambassador to Libya, Azar Khan, however told HT on the phone from Tripoli that "we have no negative news as of now." One of the mediators from Sirte University who succeeded in getting the Karnataka professors freed told HT, "They (IS) are mad men and we are in a very dangerous zone. It is out of my hands now."
Government officials are hoping that reports of the Hyderabad professors “being trained to be good Muslims’’ is true. A few weeks ago, mediators had indicated that the two were being taught the “Islamic way of life.”
Professor Vijaykumar, who returned home after being in captivity for two days confirmed to HT that just before he was freed, the IS told him, ‘now you are Muslims. When you go back to India, you must pray five times a day.’
“They asked me why I was not a Muslim and I told them that during my eight years in Sirte, I was following Islam, reading the Quran in Hindi and fasting during Ramadan,’’ Vijaykumar revealed.
The fate of the two kidnapped professors in Libya is not different from the 39 Indian construction workers kidnapped in Mosul, Iraq in June 2014. The government continues to maintain that there is no negative news and that they continue with efforts to try and free them.