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India Appeals for Release of Hostages in Iraq - 2004-07-22

India has condemned the kidnapping of three of its citizens in Iraq and has appealed for their early and safe return. India's Foreign Minister made the statement during a trip to neighboring Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh condemned the kidnapping as shocking and distressing. He said the captives are truck drivers for private companies and have nothing to do with the war in Iraq.

"They are not combatants and I would appeal to all those who have influence to assist in ensuring the safe return home of these innocent persons," he said. "It's a serious development and the threat to take lives only will increase anxiety and distress."

The Indian nationals are among seven people taken hostages by a guerrilla group in Iraq. The other four are from Kenya and Egypt. They all work for a Kuwait-based company and their captors have threatened to kill them if the company does not pull out of Iraq.

Foreign Minister Singh says his government is working with other friendly countries to secure the release of its nationals.

"We are in touch with the authorities in Baghdad and in Kuwait and with our embassy in Baghdad and are making all efforts to ensure the early release and safe return of the hostages," he said.

The kidnappers have also demanded that India, Kenya and Egypt withdraw their nationals from Iraq. The countries are not part of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, but many of their nationals are working there as private contractors.

Foreign Minister Singh reiterated that India is committed to helping in the reconstruction of Iraq, but does not plan to send troops to the country.