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Archive for June, 2014

Iraq government traces location of 40 Indian kidnapped men

Posted by :) on June 21, 2014

source- india today

Mail Today Bureau  New Delhi, June 20, 2014 | UPDATED 10:18 IST

India was on Thursday grappling with the task of establishing contact with those responsible for the abduction of 40 Indian construction workers in the war- torn Iraqi city of Mosul, which has become the first foreign policy challenge of the new NDA government.

People from Iraqi Shiite Turkmen families who have fled the violence in Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

 

The Iraq government has traced the location of the kidnapped men, who mostly belong to Punjab and other parts of northern India, but there was little clarity on who was holding them. In an indirect expression of concern about the well- being of the men, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said there was ” no safety in captivity”. Crisis management group formed by the foreign ministry met twice on Thursday – with both meetings personally chaired by External Affairs MinisterSushma Swaraj – to take stock of the options and to assess the safety and security of all the Indians in Iraq.

 

As more details emerged from Iraq, it became apparent that the Indian workers, employed by the Baghdad- based Tariq Noor Al- Huda Construction Company, were abducted on Sunday. This was a full three days before the government confirmed the kidnappings.

Sources said the men were captured while they were apparently being moved out of the second largest city of Mosul, overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS) last week.

The families of several kidnapped men from Punjab, too, have said that their last contact with them was on Sunday. Though media reports claimed the abducted men were safe and would even be handed over to any representative of the Indian government, the foreign ministry said the Iraqi government had confirmed they were in custody.

The initial information, based on inputs from the Red Crescent, about the kidnappings had been ” reconfirmed by the Iraq government”, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. Asked if the Indians were safe, he said: ” There is no safety captivity. Safety is when people are places where they are welcome.” He added: ” We have been informed by Iraq’s foreign ministry that they have been able to determine the location where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities.” Though he did not give details, sources said the other detained persons included Turkish and Bangladeshi nationals.

He refused to provide details of the location where the Indians are being held ” or what the Iraqis have shared with us in terms of possibilities”. Suresh Reddy, India’s former envoy to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad on Thursday to reinforce efforts to secure the release of the kidnapped men and to facilitate the evacuation of Indian nationals.

Reddy, believed to have key contacts in the government and local tribal leaders, participated in several meetings during the day.

Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq, told Mail Today that there was little information about the Indians in Mosul.

 

He said the 46 nurses from Kerala stranded at a teaching hospital in Tikrit were ” fine”. The parties to the conflict included the ISIS, other armed groups and tribal leaders, he said.

There are an estimated 10,000 Indians living across Iraq, but the External Affairs Ministry says only a little over 100 are in areas affected by violence, including the 40 kidnapped men.

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The crisis management group, formed by the External Affairs Ministry to oversee efforts to rescue the 40 Indians abducted in Iraq and to arrange the evacuation of other Indians, is headed by Secretary ( East) Anil Wadhwa.

 

It was formed on Tuesday after reports emerged that nearly 90 Indians were stranded in Iraq. On Thursday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj personally chaired two meetings of the group.

The other members of the crisis management group are Joint Secretary ( Gulf) Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary ( WANA) Sandeep Kumar and Joint Secretary ( Americas) Vikram Doraiswami.

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Iraq conflict: Forty Indians abducted in Mosul

Posted by :) on June 21, 2014

Source – BBC

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant supporters chant pro al-Qaeda slogans in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, Monday, June 16, 2014Fighters from militant Sunni groups have seized a number of Iraqi towns and cities, including Mosul, in the past week

India has confirmed that 40 of its citizens have been kidnapped in the violence-hit Iraqi city of Mosul.

The men were construction workers, a ministry of external affairs spokesman said. India had not received any ransom demand, he added.

A 24-hour helpline has been set up for the families and a special envoy is being sent to Baghdad.

On Tuesday, the government said it was in touch with 46 Indian nurses stranded in a hospital in Tikrit.

Tikrit and Mosul are under the control of the militant Sunni group ISIS. They are among a number of Iraqi towns and cities seized in the past week.

“Forty Indian workers of the Tariq Noor Al Huda company in Mosul have been kidnapped,” foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in Delhi.

“We have not received any calls of any nature asking for ransom… and it is not known where they are being held,” he added.

The workers are mostly from northern India.

Earlier on Wednesday, India had said it was unable to contact the men, leading to speculation that they had been abducted.

Meanwhile, the nurses stranded in Tikrit have told BBC Hindi that they are safe, but a new management which has now taken over the hospital has refused to pay their salary arrears that have been pending for two to four months.

The nurses said they were confined to a dormitory within the hospital and had had no work for the last few days because only the emergency department at the hospital was working.

While a group of 14 nurses want to return home, the others say they want to work in other safer parts of Iraq.

India says it is in contact with the Red Crescent and the United Nations, but it is safer for the nurses to stay put in the hospital since it is not safe to travel by road at the moment.

India has issued a travel advisory telling its citizens to not travel to Iraq, and those already there to leave.

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Militants post grisly images of mass killing in Iraq

Posted by :) on June 21, 2014

Source – CBS

Last Updated Jun 15, 2014 8:15 PM EDT

BAGHDAD — As the Iraqi government bolstered Baghdad’s defenses Sunday, the Islamic militant group that captured two major cities last week posted graphic photos that appeared to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.

 

The pictures on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The final images show the bodies of the captives soaked in blood after being shot.

They’re not the only images showing how ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, punishes captured Iraqi soldiers. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports from Baghdad that a video appears to show Iraqi special forces soldiers being interrogated by Sunni militants.

The soldiers are denounced as unbelievers and shot one by one in the back of the head.

 

The grisly images could further sharpen sectarian tensions as hundreds of Shiites heed a call from their most revered spiritual leader to take up arms against the Sunni militants who have swept across the north. ISIS has vowed to take the battle to Baghdad and cities further south housing revered Shiite shrines.

Late Sunday, the State Department announced it will move some U.S. Embassy workers out of Baghdad because of the violence.

The workers will be temporarily relocated to consulates in Basra and Erbil and to a support unit in Amman, Jordan, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The embassy will remain open, and additional U.S. security personnel will be added to the embassy’s staff, Psaki said.

 

This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leading away captured Iraqi soldiers dressed in plain clothes after taking over a ba
This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leading away captured Iraqi soldiers dressed in plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
 AP PHOTO VIA MILITANT WEBSITE

 

 

 

While the city of seven million is not in any immediate danger of falling into the hands of the militants, Sunday’s bombings could raise tensions. Food prices in the city have risen, twofold in some cases, because of disruption to transport on the main road heading north from the capital.

The government bolstered defenses around Baghdad Sunday, a day after hundreds of Shiite men paraded through the streets with arms in response to a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to defend their country. ISIS has vowed to attack Baghdad but its advance to the south seems to have stalled in recent days. Thousands of Shiites have also volunteered to join the fight against ISIS, also in response to al-Sistani’s call.

Despite the added security, a string of explosions killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30 in the city, police and hospital officials said. One car bomb went off in the city center, killing 10 and wounding 21. After nightfall, another explosion hit the area, killing two and wounding five. The third went off near a falafel shop in the city’s sprawling Sadr City district, killing three and wounding seven.

Baghdad has seen an escalation in suicide and car bombings in recent months, mostly targeting Shiite neighborhoods or security forces.

 

This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikri
This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
 AP PHOTO VIA MILITANT WEBSITE

 

 

 

Armed police, including SWAT teams, were seen over the weekend manning checkpoints in Baghdad, searching vehicles and checking drivers’ documents. Security was particularly tightened on the northern and western approaches of the city, the likely targets of any advance by ISIS fighters on the capital. The city looked gloomy on Sunday, with thin traffic and few shoppers in commercial areas.

At one popular park along the Tigris river, only a fraction of the thousands who usually head there were present on Sunday evening. In the commercial Karada district in central Baghdad, many of the sidewalk hawkers who sell anything from shoes to toys and clothes were absent.

 

The crisis in Iraq has prompted the United States to order an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf. It also laid out specific ways for Iraq to show it is forging the national unity necessary to gain assistance in its fight against ISIS and other militants.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday ordered the USS George H.W. Bush from the northern Arabian Sea as President Obama considered possible military options for Iraq. Hagel’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said the move will give Mr. Obama additional flexibility if military action were required to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq.

 

This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in plain clothes after taking over a base in Ti
This image posted on a militant website June 14, 2014, which has been verified appears to show militants from the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
 AP PHOTO VIA MILITANT WEBSITE

 

 

 

Accompanying the carrier will be the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. The ships, which carry Tomahawk missiles that could reach Iraq, were expected to complete their move into the Persian Gulf by the end of the day. The Bush’s fighter jets also could easily reach Iraq.

In neighboring Iran, the acting commander of the Islamic Republic’s army ground forces, Gen. Kiomars Heidari, said Iran has increased its defenses along its western border with Iraq, though there was no immediate threat to the frontier.

In Baghdad, Iraqi government officials said ISIS fighters were trying to capture the city of Tal Afar in northern Iraq on Sunday and raining down rockets seized last week from military arms depots. The officials said the local garrison suffered heavy casualties and the town’s main hospital was unable to cope with the number of wounded, without providing exact numbers.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. Tal Afar is mainly inhabited by Turkmen, an ethnic minority.

 

Iraq’s top military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed that fighting was raging at Tal Afar, but indicated that the militants were suffering heavy casualties. On all fronts north of the capital, he said, a total of 297 militants have been killed in the past 24 hours.

There was no way to independently confirm his claims.

ISIS and allied Sunni militants captured a vast swath of northern Iraq last week, including second city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, as Iraqi troops, many of them armed and trained by the U.S., fled in disarray, surrendering vehicles, weapons and ammunition to the powerful extremist group, which also fights in Syria.

The captions of the photos say the killings were to avenge the killing of an ISIS commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy, whose death was reported by both the government and ISIS shortly before the al-Qaida splinter group’s lightning offensive, which has plunged Iraq into its bloodiest crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

 

“This is the fate that awaits the Shiites sent by Nouri to fight the Sunnis,” one caption read, apparently referring to Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Moussawi, the military spokesman, confirmed the photos’ authenticity and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas held by ISIS.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay warned on Friday of “murder of all kinds” and other war crimes in Iraq, and said the number killed in recent days may run into the hundreds, while the wounded could approach 1,000.

Speaking in Geneva, she said her office has received reports that militants rounded up and killed Iraqi soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul.

 

Her office also heard of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings” after ISIS militants overran Iraqi cities and towns, the statement said.

Most of the soldiers who appear in the pictures are in civilian clothes. Some are shown wearing military uniforms underneath, indicating they may have hastily disguised themselves as civilians to try to escape.

Many soldiers and policemen left their uniforms and equipment behind as the militants swept into Mosul, Tikrit and surrounding areas.

The captions did not provide a date or location, but al-Moussawi said the killings took place in Salahuddin province, the capital of which is Tikrit.

Some of the pictures appeared to show some of the soldiers pleading for their lives, others seemed terrified.

All soldiers appeared in their early 20s, with some wearing the jerseys of such European soccer clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona. Some of the militants wore black baggy pants and shirts, many of them had sandals or flip flops.

Iraqi authorities appear to be trying to limit the dissemination of such images and other militant propaganda being shared through social media and to deny the militants their use for operational purposes.

Martin Frank, the CEO of IQ Networks, an Internet service provider in Iraq, told The Associated Press that authorities have ordered multiple social media sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to be blocked. On Sunday, they tightened the restrictions further by telling network operators to halt traffic for virtual private networks, which allow users to bypass Internet filters.

Internet traffic in several areas overrun by militants, including Mosul and Tikrit, was ordered to be cut off altogether, he said.

No timeframe was given for the shutdowns.

Map credit: IBTimes/Long War Journal

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