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Statement by External Affairs Minister to Media after meeting the families of 39 Indian nationals missing in Iraq (July 16, 2017)

July 16, 2017

Today, we had called people from all the families of Punjab whose family members are kept hostage in Iraq. I have met these families nine or ten times earlier also, but this time the circumstances are different because the Prime Minister of Iraq had announced that Mosul has been liberated from ISIS.

The day Iraqi Prime Minister announced this, on the same day I requested General V K Singh that he should go to Erbil and check where our Indian citizens are and how can we safely evacuate them. I asked Mr. Akbar that he should immediately speak with the Iraqi Foreign Minister and I myself had spoken to Foreign Ministers of all those countries from where we can get any help. I also gave a letter addressed to Foreign Minister of Iraq to General V K Singh.

Yesterday only General Singh has returned from there so I thought that this is the opportune time to tell the people of these families about all the things which General Singh has heard and learned from there. So two things have emerged that East Mosul has been completely freed from the ISIS but the buildings there are still under investigation and hence they do not allow any civilians go in there because what if some bombs or other ammunition are lying there, so only Iraqi armed forces are working there and they do not allow anyone else to visit there.

Fight is still going on in West Mosul, especially in Badush, but General Singh has received a very authentic information from such an official who could say it officially, which they had received from their intelligence sources that these people from Punjab were first employed in construction of a hospital, after that they were roped in agriculture and after that they were sent to Badush jail but have not been in any contact with the intelligence agencies after being sent to Badush jail. So when the fight at Badush will get over and the clearing is completed then only we will get to know about the current status and circumstances there.

So all this information has been shared with the families of Punjab by me and by General Singh also. Foreign Minister of Iraq is coming to India on 24th July and he will be bringing updated information with him. And if we receive any such information before that which, we feel, makes it important that General Singh must visit Iraq then we will certainly send him to Iraq prior to 24th July otherwise Foreign Minister of Iraq is coming on 24th July and he will bring the latest information on this.

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