NEW DELHI:Two days after being detained, two of the four Indians teachers abducted by the Islamic State militants in Libya were back in relative safety of their employees at the University of Sirte on Friday afternoon.
Last Tuesday, four Indian nationals, who were professors at the university, finally decided that the situation in Libya was too risky and left Sirte for the Tunisian border to return to India. The Libyan coastal city, which was the birthplace of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddaffi, had been under IS control since May.
The four Indians were stopped at the checkpoint, 50 km from the outskirts, and taken into detention by IS. “Two days ago, on July 29 around 11 pm, our mission in Tripoli came to know that four Indian nationals, who were returning to India via Tripoli and Tunis, were detained at a checkpoint approximately 50 km from Sirte,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
One of the professors had left behind the mobile phone in the taxi. The families back home came to know about the situation after the taxi driver answered their repeated, urgent calls and narrated the sequence of events. The family members immediately contacted the Indian embassy in Tripoli, which now has skeletal staff. After two days of being kept under wraps, the family came before the media to inform them about the plight of their loved ones. In its first statement confirming the incident, the government did not use the phrase “kidnapping”. Instead, they said that the group of four had been detained. As per sources, no ransom demand had been made so far.
The MEA spokesperson said in the morning that as per information from sources, “all the four Indian nationals have been brought back to the city of Sirte.”
“We are in regular contact with the families concerned and all efforts are being made to ensure the well-being and early release of the four Indian nationals,” he added.
Six hours later, he announced on Twitter: “Welcome news from Libya. 2 of the 4 detained Indians brought back safely to University of Sirte. Our efforts continue for the remaining two”. The ministry was careful to not use the phrase “release” or “free”, as the entire city has been under IS management. They will only be really “free” once they left Libya, said an official.
A few minutes later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also commented on the abduction for the first time. “Four Indians abducted in Libya - I am happy we have been able to secure the release of Lakshmikant and Vijay Kumar. Trying for other two,” she said.
Lakshmikanth is from Raichur, Karnataka, while Vijay Kumar is said to be from Bengaluru. The other two, who are still in custody, are Gopi Krishna Tiruvedula and Balram Krishna from Hyderabad in Telangana.
Sources indicated that India had put pressure on the Sirte University to get them to talk with the persons concerned and to ensure the safe return of the professors. “All four were their employees, so they are also involved in the process,” they said, adding that there was no indication about the motivation for the abduction.