NEW DELHI: Multiple channels have been activated to work for the release of the two Indian professors in Islamic State (IS) custody in Libya even as their family members hope to meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj this week.
It’s been 13 days since Balram Kishan and Gopikrishna, along with their University of Sirte colleagues Vijay Kishore and Laxmikant, were stopped at a checkpoint outside the city of Sirte. While Vijay and Lakshmikant returned to India after two days, the other two continue to be in IS custody.
Sources told Express that the Indian teachers, both from Hyderabad, were now in Sirte and safe, as per information gleaned by Indian diplomats in the African country.
Sushma is likely to meet the family members early this week after they reach Delhi on Monday.
The Islamist terrorist group’s Libyan franchisee took over Sirte, the birthplace of the late Muammar Gaddafi, in May. Since the Indian government cannot establish direct contact with the IS, it has to rely on intermediaries to put pressure for the release of the captives.
For the release of Vijay and Lakshmikant, the main conduits were senior officials of the University of Sirte.
After the release of the two professors, there was an increase in fighting between the Gaddafi loyalists and the ISIS, following the death sentence handed to Gaddaffi’s son Saif. This delayed the efforts of the negotiators to get the field commanders to release the two Indians.
The fighting having come down, efforts have picked up momentum. Indian ambassador Azhar A H Khan has returned to Tripoli to deal with the abduction, and additional channels have been opened. However, with communication networks in ruins due to the civil war, contacting different sources in a city which is out of bounds has also been a challenge.
Azhar had been operating from Tunisia since the deterioration of the security situation last year. With no other embassies fully functional, he is the only foreign ambassador currently in the Libyan capital.
One of the reasons why Balram and Gopikrishna got separated from the other two was perhaps that they were travelling in a different taxi.