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Badal to again meet Sushma for Punjabi hostages in Iraq

Chandigarh, July 7 (IANS): Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Monday said he will again meet Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and urge her to expedite the process of bringing back 39 Punjabis trapped in the Mosul region of conflict affected Iraq.

Badal gave this assurance to a delegation of family members of the Punjabis taken hostage or who are stuck in Iraq. The family members met Badal here Monday.

The chief minister said he was personally monitoring the efforts to secure the release of the Punjabis taken hostage in Iraq and was in constant touch with officers of the external affairs ministry and the special envoy of India to Iraq Suresh Reddy.

Meanwhile, 18 Punjabis stuck in Iraq returned to India Sunday night on special flights, a Punjab government spokesman said.

Expressing his satisfaction over the efforts made by the central government to secure the release of Punjabis, Badal told the distressed families to have faith on the Indian government.

Badal also spoke to special envoy Suresh Reddy on phone to get the latest update on the Punjabis taken hostage.

"Reddy informed the chief minister that all these 39 Punjabis were safe and the Indian government was exploiting all diplomatic channels to ensuring their early release," the spokesman said.

"The special envoy also apprised Mr.Badal that they were also in touch with the owner of the factory where these workers were employed, so that they could be evacuated at the earliest," the spokesman added.

Badal had, last month, led a delegation of families of men from Punjab who were taken hostage or were stuck in Iraq.

As per official information, over 700 men from Punjab were stuck in Iraq.