One of the two Indians recently abducted in Libya was free and safe, government sources and the family said on Thursday even as they gave a conflicting version of events that played out in the war-torn country.
While news of Pravash Ranjan Samal, a biomedical engineer from Odisha who has been living in Libya for 13 years, was greeted with relief there was no information about Dr Ramamurthy Kosanam, a resident of Andhra Pradesh.
Islamic militants picked up the two men on September 8 from Sirte’s Ibn-e-Sina hospital where they worked, sources said.
Hometown of former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte was overrun by IS earlier this year. The government is yet to identify the captors or the circumstances of the kidnapping.
The 48-year-old Samal managed to “flee” his abductors and told of his escape to a friend in Tripoli who then informed the Indian mission, government sources said.
But in Odisha, the family said Samal, who is married to a Filipino and is a father of two, was released by his captors on Wednesday night.
Sister-in-law Manasi Nayak said Samal called them on Thursday afternoon from an undisclosed location in Libya. He told her that he was the only one freed by the abductors after he agreed to sign a bond to not leave the hospital, Manasi said.
“My brother-in-law said after being freed he had taken shelter in a friend’s house and was calling from his number,” Manasi said.
Her husband and Samal’s elder brother Bibhu Padarabinda Nayak is waiting for the government to confirm that his brother is indeed free.
“I still have doubts,” he said. “Though he said he has been released, his voice was tense and edgy. He stammered and faltered while speaking,” he told reporters in Rourkela.
Read: Two Indians detained in war-torn Libya, says foreign ministry
Information is hard to come by in the north African nation that has been battling instability since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011.
The information the government had was based on Samal’s friend’s call and they had heard nothing from the abductors, sources said.
There is no news yet on the whereabouts of Dr Kosanam who is from Eluru in AP. He has been working in Libya since 1999 and was supposed to visit his family in August.
“My husband went back there in August last year and was to come home last month. But he was asked to stay back for the Ramzan month as his services were required. Thereafter he was held up there with not much communication. We were shocked to see his name in the news. We are extremely worried and we want the government to act urgently and bring my husband back at once,” said Kosanam’s wife.
In July, four other Indian nationals – all teachers working at a university – were taken hostage in Sirte. Two of them – Lakshmikanth from Raichur in Karnataka and Bengaluru resident Vijay Kumar – were released after two days in captivity.
The two others, Hyderabad’s Tiruveedula Gopikrishna and Chiluveru Balaram Kishan Balaram, continue to be in captivity.
Large swathes of Libya and Syria are under the control of the extremist Islamic State. The Indian government had advised its citizens to leave Libya in July last year.
At least 39 Indian construction workers are also missing in war-torn Iraq.