Two of four Indians abducted in the Libyan city of Sirte, an area under the control of the Islamic State terror group, were freed on Friday, two days after they were taken hostage when they were returning to India.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: "I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar. Trying for other two."
Three of those abducted are faculty members at the Sirte university and the fourth person works at a university branch in Jufra.
“They are back in the Sirte university," official sources said.
According to sources, two of those released are from Raichur in Karnataka and state capital Bengaluru.
The Andhra Pradesh government, meanwhile, urged Swaraj to expedite steps for safe return of all four. The remaining two hostages are from Hyderabad and Srikakulam.
"I hope that the other two are also released soon," said Vijaylakshmi, whose brother Lakshmikanth was freed.
Vikas Swarup, external affairs ministry spokesperson, said earlier in the day that all four were returning to India through Tripoli when they were detained on Wednesday at a checkpoint about 50km from Sirte, hometown of former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Later, they were taken to the Sirte city.
The ministry of external affairs initially learnt of the abduction through the families of those taken hostage, HT has learnt. The four were travelling in taxis when they were stopped at a checkpoint.
“The Indians were told to get off and the drivers were told to leave,” an official told HT. “One of the Indians left his phone behind in the taxi and the drivers were able to inform the family who, in turn, alerted embassy officials.”
The incident came a year after 39 Indians were kidnapped from Iraqi city of Mosul. They still remain in the custody of their captors.
Fear gripped the government as news of the Libya kidnapping trickled in. Most of Sirte fell to the Islamic State in May and the university, where the four were working, is located in the IS stronghold. The university has not been operational since February this year and government officials believe that the four had perhaps stayed on to collect their dues.
There are 2,000 Indians at present in conflict-hit Libya, who stayed back despite many advisories urging them to leave the country.
Since most of the Indian mission staff to Libya is now based out of Tunis, it is proving to be difficult task for officials to track the developments inside the trouble-torn country.
The ministry was in regular touch with the families concerned and all efforts are being made to ensure the well-being and early release of the Indian nationals, the government said.
The foreign ministry, through its head of mission in Tripoli, is ascertaining the details regarding the incident. Official sources said no ransom demand has been made as yet.
Swaraj also expressed concern over many Indian nurses going back to Yemen where the situation was not normal. "Many Indian nurses we evacuated from Yemen are going back. That is a cause for worry. Situation not normal and we do not have Embassy there," she tweeted.
(With PTI inputs)