Expedite process to bring home hostages: SC to MEA
The SC directed the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) to designate a nodal officer to assure better coordination with Baghdad for freeing the 39 Indians taken captive by the ISIS in 2014 in Mosul. The ruling came after a PIL was registered by lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal. He asked for MEA's intervention to hasten the process, claiming that "the abducted Indians may not be alive."
40 Indians were taken hostage outside the Iraqi city of Mosul, and according to the Indian government the ISIS was suspected to be behind the incident. The group of 40 workers were waylaid as they were being evacuated from the area as fighting intensified. The Indian government got in touch with Iraqi officials and former Ambassador Suresh Reddy was dispatched to Mosul.
According to information available all 40 hostages taken were men. They are stated to be construction workers working on projects in the outskirts of Mosul. Most of the hostages hail from Gurdaspur, Majitha and Amritsar in Punjab.
The brother of one of the kidnapped Indians in Mosul stated that all the hostages were safe. He said he was in touch with his brother via telephone and WeChat, and that all the hostages were told they would be released eventually. He added that ISIS militants told the hostages that if released, the hostages would be killed by Iraqi or Iranian forces.
The Ministry of External Affairs said one of the Indians kidnapped in Iraq, Harjit Masih, had escaped and was in touch with the embassy in Baghdad. "We can confirm to you that one Indian has escaped and is in touch with our embassy," spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. The government said it knew about the location of the kidnapped Indians and was working on negotiations.
One of the Indian hostages who escaped from Mosul, Harjit Masih, claimed that the 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, were attacked by the ISIS terrorists and killed. Masih said, "...they put us in a room and started firing. Everyone around me fell. I kept lying there and later escaped." External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, disputed Masih's claims saying the hostages were still alive.
In July 2015, four Indians, three University teachers and one other were kidnapped by ISIS in Libya. However, 2 of them, from Karnataka were freed by ISIS who allegedly said they "respect teachers as they impart education to many children in Libya."
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the 39 Indian hostages captured by the Islamic State in June 2014 were safe. She based her statement on recent meetings held with Arab and Palestinian leaders. At a meeting she held with the families of those abducted, Swaraj said the Indian government was "fully and continuously engaged" and making "every possible effort" to secure their release.
Despite Masih's claims of witnessing the hostages execution, EAM Sushma Swaraj has maintained that they are alive and well, and has met and reassured the families of the hostages 9 times since they were kidnapped in June 2014.