The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday said the government was working on rescuing 39 Indians who are believed to have been in captivity in Iraq’s Mosul since 2014. The statement came a day after Iraqi government forces recaptured the city from the Islamic State group.

Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh will visit Erbil on Monday to coordinate with the Iraqi government and facilitate the return of the Indians stranded there. The MEA said Air India officials had been instructed to assist with their return, and that the government had activated all channels to locate the missing nationals.

Most of the 39 Indians, who were believed to have been kidnapped from a construction site, are from Punjab. The ministry has assured Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that all possible efforts were being made to being them back. Iraqi authorities have also assured the MEA of their cooperation.

The Mosul offensive

Experts believe that the fall of Mosul would be the biggest blow to the Islamic State group. They had seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014. On October 17, 2016, Iraqi forces backed by a United States-led coalition had launched a major offensive to take the city back.

More than a million people have been killed, thousands of civilians have been displaced and large parts of the city have been destroyed in the past nine months of fighting.

The military campaign was seen as the country’s biggest since US forces left its soil in 2011.