Kirkuk/New Delhi: Militants who have seized large swathes of territory while advancing towards Iraq's capital Baghdad have released 48 foreigners, including four Turks, held captive for several days. However, there is no news of the 40 Indian workers, captured near the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The released foreigners are construction workers from Turkey, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, who were helping build a hospital in the now insurgent-held city of Tikrit.
"They will return to their countries soon," said Major General Torhan Abdulrahman, the deputy police chief for Kirkuk province.
Militants have seized many foreigners, including 40 Indians and more than 40 Turks, since launching last week a swift offensive and capturing a swathe of territory across four Iraqi provinces.
India had said on Thursday that it knows the location of 40 of its workers kidnapped near Mosul, as many of their family members revealed they had talked about their abduction in phone calls till Sunday.
"We are doing everything possible to ensure their safe return," Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said after meeting the families of some of the workers.
However, the government said it is not clear whether the workers are being held by the Sunni insurgent group ISIS - which has waged a war against the Iraqi government - or some other group.
Many of the Indians are from Punjab and worked for Baghdad-based construction company Tariq Noor al-Huda. Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said there has been no ransom demand yet.
Condemning the kidnappings, Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, urging him to "intensify all diplomatic efforts required to ensure safety" of the Indian nationals and "secure their release". She also promised that her party would be "fully supportive" in that endeavour.
About 100 Indian workers are trapped in areas overrun by the Al Qaeda-inspired insurgent group ISIS, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.