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Indian escapes from clutches of Iraqi abductors, 39 others safe


anxious moments: Relatives of Indian workers abducted in Iraq with their photographs in Khatuli village in Punjab Friday. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: India Friday said that one of its 40 nationals kidnapped in the violence-hit Iraqi city of Mosul managed to escape from the clutches of the abductors, while the rest "are all safe."

India announced it would stop granting its nationals permission to travel to Iraq for work.
"The Overseas Affairs Ministry has stopped granting immigration clearances to Indians travelling to Iraq for one month," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

"We can confirm to you that one Indian (out of 40 kidnapped) has escaped and is in touch with our embassy in Baghdad. They are all safe," said Akbaruddin in Delhi.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson also said that 16 other Indian nationals were evacuated from various violence-hit areas of Iraq, and have been flown out of that country.
High-level meeting

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this morning chaired a high-level meeting to assess the government's efforts to rescue the kidnapped nationals, a day after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to him urging him to make "all possible diplomatic efforts to ensure the safety of the Indians."

"The prime minister is taking stock of the situation of the 40 Indians abducted in Iraq. It's a matter of high priority for the government," Akbaruddin said, reassuring the families of the victims, currently holed up in Delhi.

The government had said on Thursday that it was aware of the location of the kidnapped Indians, but it was not clear whether they had been captured by the Al Qaeda inspired ISIS militant group.

On the issue of the 46 nurses stranded in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: "We have been in constant touch with the 46 Indian nurses. We have made arrangements for electricity and food in the hospital."

Reiterating that the government would do its best to bring back the Indians stranded in Iraq, Akbaruddin said that "no Indian in Iraq will suffer on account of lack of documentation or money."

He added: "Any Indian national who desires to return, but does not have money for the fare will be assisted by Indian community welfare fund in Iraq."          

S. Moitra/Our Correspondent

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