The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shia leaders tap Iran

New Delhi, July 21: Indian Shia leaders have approached the religious clergy in Iran at the behest of the government to seek the release of the Indian hostages in Iraq.

The hostage takers apparently belong to a little-known group called the Holders of the Black Banners. A black flag has been the symbol of the Shias since the time of Imam Ali. This would suggest that the hostage-takers belong to a Shia group.

Indian Shia leaders are trying to impress upon their counterparts in Iran that India is one of the few countries where Shias feel secure in practising their religious beliefs. Therefore, it would be wrong to punish any citizen of India for a situation that is not of his doing.

The Indian government feels that on a religious issue it cannot approach either Iran or any Shia leader in Iraq directly. That is the reason it has asked local Shia leaders to step in.

The attempt is to ensure the religious leadership in Iran is able to use its moral authority over Shia groups in Iraq.

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