By Elton Gomes
Seven Indian engineers were abducted by unidentified gunmen in Afghanistan, according to media reports. All seven engineers were working at a power plant in northern Afghanistan’s Baglan province. The engineers, along with their Afghan driver, were on their way to a government-run power station when they were abducted.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the abductions, local police suspect the Taliban’s hand.
“Seven Indians and an Afghani national have been abducted in Baglan. They were engineers with an electricity company. No one has claimed responsibility so far but it seems Taliban is behind the act, we are trying to search them. Sources tell us that they are alive,” Baglan police spokesperson told News 18.
Abdulhai Nemati, Baglan’s governor, claimed that the abductions might be a case of mistaken identity. Nemati stated that the Indian engineers were likely mistaken to be employees of the Afghan government.
News 18 reported that with the help of “tribe elders and mediation,” the Afghan government is trying to secure the engineers’ release. Responding to multiple queries, an external affairs spokesperson said, “We are aware of the abduction of Indian nationals from Baghlan province in Afghanistan. We are in contact with the Afghan authorities and further details are being ascertained,” according to a report by PTI.
A Reuters report mentioned that all engineers were working at Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), a company that operates power-generating stations. The engineers were employees of KEC International, a power transmission engineering, procurement and construction firm that is affiliated with the Mumbai-based RPG Enterprises, The Telegraph reported.
Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Enterprises, has sought help from the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in seeking immediate release of the engineers.
Here’s what happened
The abduction of the engineers is yet another instance of Indians having been abducted in conflict-ridden situations. The scale of conflict coupled with the presence of militant groups, makes it extremely difficult for governments to secure release of abductees. Here’s a list of previous instances when Indians were abducted abroad.
39 Indians abducted and killed in Iraq
In June 2014, a total of 40 construction workers were trying to leave Mosul but, were taken hostage by the terror group ISIS. A year later, in June, Harjit Masih escaped from ISIS, and claimed that all other 39 Indians had been killed.
However, the Indian government dismissed Masih’s statement and claimed that he was lying. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that Masih “was not willing to tell me how he escaped.”
In September 2015, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that all 39 Indians were alive. Later, in February 2016, Swaraj reiterated that the Indians were safe in Mosul, and that her government was making all efforts to locate them. Thereafter, Mosul was liberated from ISIS, and Swaraj and the junior foreign minister General V.K. Singh met the families of the abducted Indians. However, Swaraj stuck to her statement that they were alive. The families were still in the dark about the hostages. In March 2018, Swaraj told the parliament that all 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed later.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil abducted by ISIS in Yemen
Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016, in the south Yemen city of Aden. The Indian Christian priest was kidnapped when ISIS militants attacked an old-age home that was run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The Indian Express reported that India was in touch with Yemeni and Saudi authorities to secure the release of Father Tom.
In July 2017, Swaraj requested the deputy prime minister of Yemen to secure the priest’s release. A video of Father Tom seeking help surfaced in December 2016. In the video, Father Tom said: “If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered of much value.”
46 nurses abducted by ISIS in Iraq
46 Indian nurses were kidnapped around the same time the 40 construction workers were abducted in 2014. However, the nurses were reportedly freed after a period of 24 hours. The Times of India reported that Indian businessmen worked behind the scenes to help secure their release. A couple of affluent businessmen used their contacts from the Gulf to ensure that the nurses reach home safe. All 46 nurses were rescued from the city of Tikrit in Iraq.
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