New Delhi: The Indian government on Monday announced it will send a top minister to Iraq in an effort locate dozens of its missing citizens after Mosul was all but recaptured from the Islamic State group.
Thirty-nine Indian labourers have been missing, believed taken hostage by IS, since the militant outfit overran Iraq’s second largest city in 2014.
There has been no word on their fate since but New Delhi has insisted that without information otherwise, the Indian construction workers are still considered alive.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said all possible avenues for locating the missing nationals would be explored now that the city had been liberated by Iraqi forces.
Iraq has declared victory in Mosul, with its forces fighting to eliminate the last pockets of IS resistance after months of difficult battles that have left much of the key northern city in ruins.
The Indian spokesman said junior foreign minister V.K. Singh would travel to the Kurdish city of Erbil to coordinate the search efforts.
“The Ambassador of India to Iraq and our Consul General in Erbil have been instructed to continue the efforts to locate them on priority," he said in a statement.
Iraqi authorities had extended their cooperation to help find the missing workers, the spokesman added.
The Indians labourers were employed by the Baghdad-based Tariq Noor al-Huda construction company.
The workers were trying to leave battle-ravaged Mosul when they were intercepted by insurgents soon after they stormed the city in June 2014, reported Indian media.
More than 10,000 Indians fled Iraq amid the upsurge in violence in 2014, including dozens of nurses who were held briefly by suspected IS militants in Tikrit and Mosul before being allowed to return home.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday announced that his forces had retaken Mosul from IS after a months-long battle that killed thousands of civilians and forced nearly a million people from their homes.