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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014
Over 1,000 killed in Iraq in 17 days; more Indians moved to safety
Agencies
New Delhi/Geneva, June 24, 2014
First Published: 19:21 IST(24/6/2014)
Last Updated: 21:45 IST(24/6/2014)
A woman breaks down during prayers held at Baba Budha Ji Sahib Gurdwara for safe return of their loved ones abducted in Iraq, at Kathunangal in Amritsar on Tuesday. Sameer Sehgal/HT

India evacuated 17 more of its nationals from the conflict zone of Iraq with the help of local authorities, taking the total number of those rescued so far to 34, the external affairs ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry also advised its citizens to leave on voluntary basis by commercial means in view of the "fragile" security situation.

The external affairs ministry, which issued a fresh travel advisory on Tuesday asking Indians to remain indoors if they were in conflict-prone areas, said: "The safety of Indians in Iraq remains the matter of importance for the country."

Read: People offer prayer at Golden Temple for abducted Indians in Iraq 

"We have, with the help of local authorities, evacuated 17 more Indian nationals from the conflict zone of Iraq and they are now in Baghdad," a spokesperson in the MEA said. The ministry had earlier evacuated 17 Indians from the country while 39 Indian citizens still remain in captivity.

"The Indians in captivity are still in captivity but they are not hurt or harmed," the spokesperson said.

He said government was also in constant touch with the 46 nurses who were in a hospital in Tikrit, another violence- affected city which also fell to the Sunni militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Read: A battle won? Advantage ISIS on the web in Iraq war

The spokesperson, however, said it was not possible to give the exact number of Indians in the conflict zone. The Indian embassy officials along with Iraqi officials are setting up a joint committee to help those Indians who want to leave but have immigration problems, he added.

The United Nations, meanwhile, said more than 1,000 people - at least three-quarters of them civilians - were killed this month as Islamist militants swept through large swathes of northern and western Iraq.

At least 1,075 people were killed and 658 were injured in the country in the 17 days from June 5 to 22, Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office told reporters in Geneva.

He said the numbers "should be viewed very much as a minimum." At least 757 civilians were killed and another 599 injured in the provinces of Nineveh, Diyala and Salah al-Din, he said.

A number of the deaths were due to "verified summary executions and extra-judicial killings of civilians, police, and soldiers who were hors combat."Read: Iraq crisis: NATO to convene after Kerry pledges support to Baghdad against militants

At least 318 more people - not necessarily all civilians - had been killed and 590 injured in Baghdad and areas in the south, "many of them as a result of at least six separate vehicle-borne bombs," he said.

Militants, led by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, have since early June overrun major areas of five provinces and driven to within less than 100 kilometres of Baghdad.

The militant onslaught has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, alarmed world leaders, and put Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under pressure at home and abroad.

Abductees executed

In addition to the killings, abductions by the brutal jihadist group, which has roots in al Qaeda, are also reportedly continuing across the affected provinces, Colville said.Read: No oil supply shortage due to Iraq unrest: OPEC

Many foreigners are among those abducted, including the 48 Turkish citizens snatched from Ankara's consulate when ISIS captured Mosul, and around 40 Indian nationals working for an Iraqi construction company who were kidnapped on June 18, according to India's foreign ministry.

While some of those who had been abducted had since been released, including 16 Georgians working for an Iraqi communications company, Colville decried that bodies of some abductees were also turning up, many with gunshots to the back of the head.

He pointed to the dozens of videos broadcast by ISIS claiming to show mass executions, beheadings and other atrocities targeting off-duty soldiers, police officers and civilians on the basis of their religion or ethnicity.

The Iraqi army, which is struggling to hold its ground in the face of the jihadist onslaught, has also carried out serious abuses, Colville said.

Iraqi forces have allegedly carried out "at least two summary executions of prisoners," he said, pointing to one as yet unconfirmed at the al-Qalaa police station in the Shiite-majority northern town Tal Afar, where 31 detainees were reportedly killed on June 15.

The UN mission in Iraq had meanwhile confirmed another summary execution of prisoners by Iraqi forces as they withdrew from Mosul, Colville said, adding that the troops had reportedly thrown grenades into a room filled with detainees, killing at least 10 people and injuring 14.

"We urge the Iraqi authorities to swiftly carry out their obligation to thoroughly investigate these, and any other, reported summary executions," Colville said, demanding efforts "to bring all perpetrators to justice."


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