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Don’t know whether the 39 missing Indians are dead or alive, Iraq’s ambassador tells WION

MUMBAI: There is no confirmation whether the 39 Indians missing in Iraq since June 2014 are dead or alive, Iraq’s Ambassador in India Fakhri Al-Issa tells WION in an interview.

The Iraqi envoy’s remarks come four days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj cited unnamed sources as telling her deputy, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K Singh, during his recent visit to Erbil, Mosul and Baghdad “that the missing Indians are most probably in a jail in Badush where fighting is still going on.”

“Personally, I have no information (about whether the Indians might be in Badush jail),” the envoy tells WION. His remarks seem to be at variance with the information shared by the Indian Government with the families of the 39 Indians who called on Ms. Swaraj in New Delhi last Sunday. Ms. Swaraj had also said that “once fighting stops in Badush and the area is cleared, we can probably find out the whereabouts of the missing nationals.”

“Their fate is unknown,” the Iraqi envoy says, “No news is good news… I hope they are still alive.”

According to him, thousands of Iraqis are missing, too, and the fear is that Daesh or the so-called Islamic State could have used some of those missing Indian and Iraqi nationals as slave labour or human shields.

It is quite possible they could be in Raqqa, the Ambassador said, referring to the Syrian town which has emerged as the de-facto capital of the Islamic State.

Ahead of Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Abdul-Kareem Hamza Al-Eshaiker Al-Jaafari’s visit to New Delhi, the Iraqi ambassador also tells WION that his country wants India to “play a major role” in rebuilding his war-torn country. Mosul, for example, is nearly “70 per cent” in ruin and would require upwards of 100 billion dollars to rebuild the city from the ground up and facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis.

In particular, the envoy said Iraq would welcome India’s humanitarian assistance in the form of medical treatment for wounded Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Asked about whether the defeat of the I.S necessarily means that the ideology is vanquished, too, the Iraqi envoy asserted that “it is the responsibility of the whole world” to combat the ideology that spawned terrorist groups such as Daesh in the first place.

“We all know where this ideology is coming from… we all know who is supporting and funding them… and giving them safe haven and allowing them to move freely,” he says in an oblique reference to some countries in West Asia.

The news will be aired tonight exclusively on WION at 21:30hrs onwards