Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen in Iraq's Old City of Mosul on July 10. Photograph: (Reuters)
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 told 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, junior foreign minister General VK 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 said in the interview. "I have not received any confirmed information from my government."
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 Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Sunday, 16 July.
Swaraj had said on the occasion that "once the fighting stops in Badush and the area is cleared, we can probably find out the whereabouts of the missing nationals".
In contrast, the Iraqi envoy maintains that the fate of the 39 missing Indians is unknown. "It is unknown for us. And sometimes as I said before no news is good news. So let's hope they are still alive," the Iraqi envoy said.
The envoy's words might come as a disappointment for the families of the missing Indians; they have not had closure for more than three years now.
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 Indians and Iraqi nationals as slave labour or human shields.
He said it is "quite possible" they might be in Raqqa, the Syrian town which has emerged as the de-facto capital of the so-called Islamic State.
Ahead of Iraqi foreign minister Dr Ibrahim Abdul-Kareem Hamza Al-Eshaiker Al-Jaafari's visit to New Delhi, the Iraqi ambassador says that his country wants India to "play a major role" in rebuilding his war-torn country. Mosul, for example, is in ruins and would require upwards of $100 billion to rebuild it from the ground up in order to 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 Islamic State necessarily means that the ideology is vanquished, too, the Iraqi envoy asserts that “it is the responsibility of the whole world” to combat the ideology that spawned terrorist groups such as the Islamic State 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 said in an oblique reference to some countries in West Asia.
Iraq's Ambassador Fakhri H. Al-Issa speaks to WION on the fate of 39 Indian who went missing in Iraq (WION)