NEW DELHI: Indian diplomats have lost touch with mediators after the IS deliberately shut down all communication networks in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte with the outside world about four-five days ago, jeopardising efforts to bring back two Indian professors, who were abducted over a month ago.
“We have not been able to get in touch with any of our contacts in Sirte since all communications broke down about 4-5 days ago,” sources told Express.
T Gopikrishna and Balram Krishnan were last reported to be at the checkpoint, about 50 km outside Sirte, on July 29 evening, when they were on their way to India. They were accompanied by two other professors — Lakhsmikant and Vijay Kishore — but were separated during their confinement.
While Lakshmikant and Vijay returned to India within 48 hours, the fate of Gopikrishna and Balram continues to be a cause of worry.
Unable to be in direct contact with IS, Indian officials had been putting pressure on the Sirte University officials to get their employees out from IS custody. Thereafter, as days went by, Indian officials also activated other channels - “anybody who could be of influence in Sirte”. By influence, it mainly meant Libyans who had relatives still residing in Sirte and could be in a position to directly talk with IS commanders. “But even those links have been broken. They have also not been able to speak to anyone in Sirte,” said an official.
“Another problem is that most of residents and people that we know are now leaving Sirte in droves after fighting broke out and IS have clamped down,” he said.
The blackout came in the last days of IS’s crackdown and declaration of an “Emirate” in Sirte by the Libyan faction’s spiritual leader Hassan al-Karami.