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June 22, 2017

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Location of abducted workers in Iraq known: India

NEW DELHI--India said Thursday it knows the location of its 40 construction workers abducted in violence-torn Iraq, as several of their families said they have spoken with the captured men.

Armed militants abducted the workers on Monday from a stadium where they were working in the northern city of Mosul but no demands for ransom have been made, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told AFP.

The Indian citizens were being held together with other abducted foreigners and "every avenue will be pursued" to secure their release, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

"We have been informed by the Iraqi foreign ministry that they have tracked down the location where the Indian nationals are held," Akbaruddin said at a briefing in New Delhi.

The ministry on Wednesday said that the workers had been abducted from Mosul, which Sunni militants have overrun in a deadly ongoing insurgency. But the ministry said it did not know who had taken the workers hostage or where they were being held.

Forty-nine Turks including diplomats and children were also kidnapped from the Turkish consulate in Mosul last week.

The discovery of the location where the workers are being held, which was not revealed, comes as several of the families said they had spoken with the Indian men.

Charanjit Singh said his brother called him on Wednesday "for a couple of minutes" to tell him the workers were safe and that their captors insisted they would be released if someone from the government made contact.

"He said he and his co-workers from India were all safe and not held hostage," Singh told the Hindu newspaper from his home in northern Punjab state.

"They say (the militants) will release them if someone responsible from the Indian military or government comes to collect them," Singh added.

Gurpinder Kaur said her brother told her on June 15 that the militants had promised to free the group "safely without any conditions" if New Delhi got in touch with them.

The Red Crescent Society said it has learnt that armed militants loaded the 40 into vehicles at the stadium where they were working.

"We don't know what happened to them," Iraqi Red Crescent president Yaseen Ahmed Abbas said by phone from Baghdad.

"It is difficult to talk to the insurgents, there is no official who we can talk to," said Abbas, who was unable to say exactly which militant group the "insurgents" belonged to.

'Take care of the family'

Kamaljit Singh said he had spoken with his brother Parminder, who sounded frightened as he and the others were being placed in the trucks.

Speaking to the Hindi-language Amar Ujala newspaper, Singh said his brother had told him "please take care of the family".

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