1:45 pm - Sunday November 8, 2015

Kidnapped in Iraq : ‘The Call Was Cut Off, Now His Phone Keeps Ringing’

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Chandigarh – Dharmender called his family in Punjab on Sunday to tell them he had been kidnapped in Iraq. The short, rushed conversation was cut off abruptly.

“Now his mobile phone keeps ringing but no one answers it,” says his father, Rajkumar.

Dharmender is among some 40 Indians kidnapped from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, which fell to Sunni insurgents last week.

The missing workers are largely from Punjab and were employed by a Baghdad-based construction company called Tariq Noor Al Huda.

Dharmender’s family in Batala says before his call was disconnected, he revealed that armed men picked him up and asked him to get into a jeep, telling him they were shifting him to another company.

He was instead brought to an unknown place and locked up.

About an hour’s drive away in another part of Punjab, Kamaljeet’s family is also haunted by his last call on Tuesday.

Kamaljeet, who works with the Noor Al huda company, called his brother and said some 91 people were rounded up by armed militia and divided into two groups – foreigners and locals.

41 people, Kamaljeet told his brother Parminder, were asked to board a truck and were taken to an undisclosed location.

Gobinder Singh of Kapurthala went to Mosul as a welder 10 months ago. His wife says the company he worked for, took away his passports and other travel documents and kept shifting them around.

“They were told that they will be given back documents in Baghdad, but the officials later disappeared,” said Amarjit Kaur. “Before Sunday, he told me he was at some place where he was fine. Now I don’t know whether he is safe or not.”

Many of these desperate relatives headed to New Delhi on Thursday, seeking reassurance from the Centre that their boys are safe.

“It is very unfortunate. The construction company had decided to shift those Indians to a safer place but unfortunately, they were abducted on the way,” said union minister Harsimrat Kaur, the daughter-in-law of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

About 100 Indian workers are trapped in areas overrun by the Al Qaeda-inspired insurgent group ISIS. The government said on Wednesday that no ransom calls had been received so far.

ISIS fighters, who aim to establish a Muslim caliphate across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, launched their revolt by seizing Mosul, and swept through the Tigris valley towards Baghdad.

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