NEW DELHI: Concerns about the safety of 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq in June heightened on Thursday after a news channel claimed that only one of them was still alive.
The channel sourced its story to two Bangladeshis who claimed to have spoken to the only survivor Indian, Harjeet. Government sources were quick to dismiss the claims saying their current information did not corroborate the claim.
The channel said that 39 out of 40 Indian workers who went missing in Iraq in June may have been killed by Islamic State militants. The claim was based on interview of two Bangladeshi workers whom the channel spoke to in Kurdistan’s capital Erbil.
The two Bangladeshis, identified as Shafi and Hassan, claimed that an Indian worker Harjeet, who miraculously escaped from the clutches of the militants, told them that he witnessed the killings of all his Indian co-workers. Shafi said they were travelling to Mosul from Baghdad and were kidnapped by ISIS militants on the way. There were 51 Bangladeshis and 40 Indian workers in the kidnapped group.
Harjeet told Shafi that on June 15, ISIS militants had taken all 40 Indians along with him to a hilly terrain where all of them were shot. Harjeet too suffered two bullet injuries but acted as if he was dead. The Indians are believed to have been kidnapped on June 10.
Harjeet has been interviewed in the past by Indian agencies, who believe that his claims do not add up.
A senior intelligence official said they had no information about any change in the status of the captives. “It is possible that they have been moved elsewhere. ISIS is a country now, and they could easily move the labourers to other locations,” he said. The official said their information about the safety of the captives was just a few days old.
The government has been keeping a close watch on the situation unfolding in Iraq and Syria, especially on the safety of Indians in the region. Last week, government sent two senior external affairs ministry officials to Erbil. Sanjay Rana, deputy envoy in Maldives, and Abu Mathen George, second secretary in Cairo, were sent to Erbil to strengthen the staff presence in the Indian camp in the Iraqi city.