Even as 39 Indian construction workers continue to be held captive by the militant outifit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there is confusion as to where they are currently being kept.
Reports from foreign interlocutors are throwing varying theories of where the Indians could be, with some even suggesting that they could have been moved to Syria, according to Hindustan Times.
As per the HT report, Iraqi tribal leaders who are intermediating between New Delhi and the ISIS leaders have said the workers could have been shifted to a region in Syria under the control of the militants. They may have to face a Sharia court in Syria, the report suggested.
"This version has been around for a few days. Obviously the fog that descends on such situations appears to have made clarity difficult in this case too," a senior external affairs ministry official told HT in relation to the report by the Iraqi tribal leaders.
However, interlocutors from Saudi Arabia maintain that the workers are still in Mosul where they were kidnapped, and are being made to work as labourers. Saudi Arabia is said to be an important ally to India and has helped in securing the release of several Indians trapped in the conflict-ridden Iraq over the last month. ISIS had kidnapped 40 Indian workers, but one managed to escape.
The Indian government achieved a diplomatic win earlier this month when they helped secure the safe return of 46 nurses from a Tikrit hospital back home to Kerala. By working closely with Indian diplomats in the troubled Middle East, the government was able to pull off a massive evacuation drive, bringing back thousands of Indians from Iraq.
However, their efforts in releasing the 39 Indian workers, most from Punjab, met a dead-end when the ISIS militants closed the doors to negotiations about ten days ago. Institutions such as the Red Crescent Society, which had worked closely with the government in the release of Indians, also expressed doubt on the safe return of the workers, as reported by Hindustan Times.
"We have been told to be patient," a government official had told HT. " We continue to knock on doors, but the clear indication is that ISIS does not want to negotiate their release right now.''
The Sunni militant group ran over several regions of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic Caliphate in the occupied region.