The shocking execution of 12 Nepalese hostages by Iraqi militants Tuesday sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi as three Indian hostages completed 40 days in captivity in Iraq without any sign of their early release.
The news of the killings came when negotiations for the release of the three Indians were said to be progressing well and their employer, Kuwait Gulf Link (KGL) Transport Company, had indicated that their release was expected anytime.
Officials said the Crisis Management Group set up by the Indian government to deal with the hostage crisis, which entered the 40th day Saturday, met Tuesday but had no new information about the status of the negotiations for the release of the hostages.
The meeting took place before news about the execution of the Nepalese was received.
The Indians, as also three Kenyans and an Egyptian, all working as truckers for KGL, were kidnapped by a group calling itself The Holders of The Black Banner, one of many groups that are operating in the lawless conditions in Iraq.
The 12 Nepalese, who were executed were taken hostage another group - Islamist Army of Ansar al-Sunna group.
A statement issued by the group and posted on an Islamist website Tuesday said: "We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalese who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians ... believing in Buddha as their God."
The video showed a masked man slitting the throat of a blindfolded hostage lying on the ground while another footage showed an armed man firing an assault rifle at the back of the heads of 11 others.
"America today has used all its force, as well as the help of others, to fight Islam under the so-called war on terror, which is nothing but a vicious crusade against Muslims," the statement charged.
"We will work on exterminating them until the last fighter," a man shown reading the statement said.
KGL, which renewed negotiations with the kidnappers of the Indians last week after talks had virtually broken down, said it had agreed to their demand for the complete withdrawal of its services from Iraq.
A KGL official had also telephoned the family of one of the hostages, Antaryami Bains, in Una in Himachal Pradesh and appealed to them to give up their fast for his early release.
The other Indians held hostages are Tilak Raj, also from Una, and Sukhdev Singh from a village in Ropar in Punjab.