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India Activates Channels to locate 39 Missing Indians abducted by ISIS in Iraq

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ISIS members with the flag. VOA
  • The families of the Indian hostages were trying to locate their kin after Iraqi forces freed Mosul from the clutches of ISIS
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also been raising the issue with other countries in the Middle East region

New Delhi, July 10, 2017: With Mosul liberated from the Islamic State, India has activated various channels to locate the 39 Indians who were abducted by the terror group from the Iraqi city three years ago and is sending Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh to Iraq, an official said on Monday.

In response to a query, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said that as soon as the announcement of Mosul’s liberation was made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Indian government activated various channels for locating the missing Indians.

He said that Singh will leave for Erbil.

“Ambassador of India to Iraq and our Consul General in Erbil have been instructed to continue the efforts to locate them on priority.”

Baglay added that Iraqi authorities have conveyed that all cooperation would be extended and instructions have been issued by them to all relevant Iraqi agencies.

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The development comes as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that her ministry was making all-out efforts to trace and facilitate the return of the 39 Indians.

Reacting to reports that the families of the Indian hostages were trying to locate their kin after Iraqi forces freed Mosul from the clutches of ISIS, Amarinder sought her active intervention in the matter. He said the families of the hostages were keenly awaiting the return of their kin.

“Assuring of all possible efforts by her ministry to bring back the Indians, who were construction workers taken into custody in 2014, Sushma said General V.K. Singh had been sent to Iraq to coordinate with the Iraqi government to facilitate the return of the Indians stuck there. She said she had also directed the Indian embassy to extend all help to the stranded Indians,” a spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) disclosed in Chandigarh.

Air India officials at the airports had also been instructed to facilitate their return, said Sushma, adding that her ministry had activated all available sources to trace the missing Indians, who were last heard of hiding in a church in Mosul, the spokesperson added.

While Sushma has held several meetings with the families of the hostages since the abduction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also been raising the issue with other countries in the Middle East region.

The Chief Minister said he was hopeful the 39 Indians would be back home soon, now that Mosul was no longer in the control of ISIS.

Baglay also said the liberation of Mosul “is an important milestone in the global war on terror, and India welcomes it”.

Iraqi forces liberated Mosul on Sunday after 266 days of fierce battles, bringing to an end three years of IS rule.

Last month, Baglay said that the Indians were alive and “everything possible” was being done to ensure their safe return.

“The information we have so far is that they are alive because we have no other information to prove that they are not alive,” Baglay told reporters on June 16. (IANS)

 

 

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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Iraqi Forces Seize Key Sites in Kirkuk, Kurdish Stronghold

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Kurdish security forces
Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces patrol in Tuz Khormato, that was evacuated by Kurdish security forces, 210 kilometers north of Baghdad, Iraq. voa

Baghdad, October 2017: Iraqi forces took over more oil fields near the city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, along with the town of Sinjar, as they expanded a pushback against Kurdish control of areas outside of their semi-autonomous region.

The military said Kurd fighters withdrew from the Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields, leaving federal security forces to take over.

A similar dynamic played out in Sinjar where pro-government forces moved into the town Tuesday after the Kurdish Peshmerga moved out.

Tuesday’s developments followed a swift move by government forces Monday to capture the Kirkuk governor’s office, key military sites and an oil field. The U.S.-trained troops, acting on orders from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, raised Iraqi flags.

Kurds had held the city since 2014 when they secured it against Islamic State fighters. But the central government had demanded they relinquish control, and moved to act following a Kurd independence referendum last month.(VOA)

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Syrian Army captures historic Citadel of the country’s Ancient oasis city of Palmyra

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Syrian Army (representational Image), Pixabay

Damascus, March 1, 2017: The Syrian Army captured the historic citadel of the country’s ancient oasis city of Palmyra on Wednesday, after battles with the Islamic State, a military source told Xinhua.

The Syrian Army and allied fighters captured the Palmyra citadel west of the city, as well as the Qatari Castle southwest of Palmyra amid a collapse in the ranks of the IS militants, the source said on condition of anonymity.

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The IS fighters are fleeing toward the residential part of the city, he added.

The army unleashed a counter offensive 47 days ago to retake Palmyra, after the IS militants captured it for the second time last December.

The source said the city could entirely fall back to the army soon.

The IS thinks the city important as it connects areas under the terror group’s control in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour with areas under its control in the eastern countryside of the central province of Homs.

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 Palmyra contains monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming for new clues on historical facts on the development of civilisations. (IANS)