Forty Indian construction workers stranded in violence-hit Iraq have been kidnapped, the Indian foreign ministry confirmed according to international and local media reports.
A ministry spokesman said on Wednesday he could confirm the report in the Times of India newspaper that fighters have abducted the 40 workers in the northern city of Mosul amid a deteriorating security situation.
"Forty Indian workers of the Tariq Nur Al Huda company in Mosul have been kidnapped," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in New Delhi, according to the AFP news agency.
According to local television channel NDTV, Akbaruddin said the missing workers are largely from Punjab and other parts of northern India and added that Indian nurses stranded in Tikrit, under fighter control, have been contacted by the Red Crescent but are unable to get out.
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The Indian foreign ministry has set up a 24-hour control room in New Delhi to provide information on Iraq.
On Twitter, Akbaruddin said that an Indian diplomat was on his way to Baghdad to help the embassy there.
The Times of India, citing unnamed sources, said the 40, who were working on various projects, were abducted by the fighters during an evacuation of the Mosul area.
Since launching their offensive on June 9, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured Mosul and a big chunk of mainly-Sunni Arab territory stretching south towards the capital.
As many as 46 Indian nurses were also stranded in Iraq waiting for the turmoil to subside.
Several have told NDTV and other Indian television stations by phone that they were living like prisoners at a state-run hospital in Tikrit after being abandoned by their employers as well as the military.
The offensive has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sent jitters through world oil markets as the militants have advanced ever nearer to aghdad, leaving the Shia-led government in disarray.