India has reached out to an armed group led by Saddam Hussein’s former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and “three other splinter groups” fighting along ISIS to secure the release of 39 of its nationals held captive in Iraq.
Nearly 10 days after 40 Indian construction workers were snatched from Mosul in northern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants all that has been confirmed is that one of them escaped.
What has now given hope to New Delhi is ISIS brass’ reported message to its ranks that foreign hostages should not be harmed or harassed as it could adversely “hit their goodwill” among the people, government sources told HT on Monday.
With multiple contacts saying Indians are safe and unharmed, New Delhi has got in touch with the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order which is packed with Saddam loyalists and is one of the many insurgent armies that have aligned themselves with the ISIS.
The Naqshbandi army has “deep influence and control over things” in Mosul and played an equal role in as the ISIS in overrunning the Iraqi administration in the Sunni-dominated areas.
“Mosul is like the home turf of the Naqshbandis,” a source said.
Douri, Saddam Hussein’s ex-deputy who took over the Ba’ath party after the former dictator was executed in December 2006, leads the group. A former top military commander, he is reported to have joined fighters near his home town Tikrit and has emerged a key figure in the Sunni advances in the north of the country.
Named for Naqshabandi Sufi order, the group formed in 2007 combines Ba’athist and pan-Arabist outlook.
Though ISIS communication gave reason for guarded optimism, external affairs ministry spokesperson on Monday repeated what he said earlier “there is no safety in captivity”.
“We are proceeding systematically and carefully. Various doors are opening now; these are primarily in Iraq at various levels, all of which are significant,” Syed Akbaruddin said at media briefing.
There are 10,000 Indians in Iraq and out of which 120 are in conflict zones, including 46 nurses who are stuck in a hospital in Tikrit, Saddam’s home town.
Full coverage: Iraq on the brink