Iraqi Minister arrives on India visit, talks to focus on missing Indians

"We have no substantial evidence that they [the Indians] were killed or they are still alive, so we can not give anything in that regard", al-Jaafari told reporters after the meeting.

The kin of the missing men, however, were hoping that "concrete" information about the whereabouts of their dear ones would emerge during the Iraqi minister's visit.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj (centre) met family members of 39 Indian youths missing in Iraq since June 2014 in Delhi. We are equally concerned.

In a flip-flop, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said here on Monday that the 39 Indians missing in the city of Mosul since 2014 are considered alive, after having said earlier in the day his government was not 100 per cent sure about this. She said they had information that the Indians were in a jail in Badush.

Ms Swaraj had told the families of the workers that an Iraqi official, quoting intelligence sources, had told Mr Singh they were made to work at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were put in a jail in Badush.

Speaking to India Today, the minister said that the issue of missing 39 Indians was discussed in detail in the meeting.

Swaraj is expected to make a statement on the matter in Parliament on Tuesday.

In the talks, Swaraj and al-Jaafari chose to take steps to boost cooperation in areas of education, trade, energy and healthcare, official sources said.

But a recent media report said that the jail was abandoned and it had been unoccupied for weeks, he added. The Iraqi foreign minister also met petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. The volume of bilateral trade in 2016-17 was almost $13 billion. Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh was sent to Erbil in Iraq to pursue the matter. Iraq has been one of the major suppliers of crude oil to India. Earlier this month, Iraqi forces, after months of battle with ISIS, rooted out the terrorist organisation from the soil of Mosul.


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