Sangrur (Punjab), May 15: A day after a Punjabi youth who survived and escaped from Iraq claimed that 39 Indians taken hostage in the war-torn country were killed by IS terrorists, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Friday said that the central government was making "strenuous efforts for locating the whereabouts of the Punjabis trapped in Iraq".
He said that the Punjab government was in constant touch with the central government on the issue of locating the 39 trapped Indians and bringing them back.
"It is unfortunate that till now all these youth have not come back but the state government and centre were leaving no stone unturned to ensure their safe release. I have personally taken up this issue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was taking keen interest in evacuating these youth from strife-torn Iraq," Badal said.
Reiterating the commitment of state government to extend a helping hand to the distressed families, Badal said that he had already directed officers of the state government to ensure that the families of these youth stuck in Iraq were given financial assistance on time.
Iraq crisis survivor Harjit Masih had told media on Thursday that the 39 Indian taken hostage by IS had been killed. He alleged that he was kept under detention by authorities even after he escaped from Iraq and returned to India.
The claim was, however, disputed by Sushma Swaraj who said that information from her eight sources indicated that the hostages were alive.
A total of 40 Indian workers, mostly Punjabis, were taken hostage by IS terrorists from Iraq's Mosul town on June 11 last year.