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Help for Indians in Najaf

New Delhi, June 22: Indian officials in Iraq are travelling to the southern city of Najaf to assist Indian nationals desperate to leave the civil war-ravaged country but stranded there because their employers have allegedly refused to return their passports.

Foreign ministry joint secretary and spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin today confirmed that Indian officials from the embassy in Baghdad have communicated with these workers. The foreign office, he said, “will assist those who want to return”.

Global human rights organisation Amnesty International had yesterday claimed in London that several hundred Indian nationals were trapped in Najaf without their passports and without compensation for their work from employers.

Foreign ministry officials suggested that the number of Indians stranded without passports in Najaf is much smaller than claimed by Amnesty International.

The foreign ministry has also clarified that it will assist any Indian national with necessary documentation to return to India.

“Documentation for any Indian national is not a problem at all,” Akbaruddin had said at a media briefing on Thursday.

India is focusing on evacuating citizens in parts of Iraq that are so far relatively free from the battle between the Iraq Army and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant al Qaida splinter group that is threatening to overthrow the country’s elected government.

The ISIS has seized vast swathes of Iraq’s territory, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit where just over 100 Indian nationals are stranded. The militants have abducted 40 of these Indians in Mosul.

The abducted men are safe, the foreign ministry — which has managed to communicate with the abductees — has said. But the continuing violence in and around Mosul is preventing India from carrying out any evacuation operation.