The workers, mostly from Punjab and other parts of northern India, were working on a construction project in Mosul in northern Iraq which has been captured by Sunni militant group ISIS. Reports said that the kidnapping took place while they were being evacuated on Wednesday.

"Yes, I can confirm to you that 40 Indian workers have been kidnapped in Mosul," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.

He said humanitarian agencies and International Red Crescent have confirmed to India about kidnapping of the workers, employed with Tariq Nur Alhuda company, but said there is no information about their location.

"We have not received any calls of any nature from anyone who have indicated about ransom or any information that they have taken these people under their control," he said on being asked whether there has been any ransom call.

India is in touch with various humanitarian agencies, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and Iraqi government to gather more information about the kidnapping, he added.

The MEA spokesman said the development has triggered a "very difficult situation" for India which is working with several partners in Iraq as well as elsewhere "to try and see what would be the best ways to take our efforts further".

"We are trying to work with everybody on the ground who can assist us in these difficult circumstances," he said.

Asked whether government was taking help from US, he refused to get into operational details, saying the government was not going to share such information in an evolving situation.

The government is in touch with the 46 nurses who are stranded in Tikrit town, which was also taken over by the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Crescent had contacted the nurses.

The government, earlier in the day, decided to send former envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy to strengthen the Indian Mission in Baghdad.

Iraq is witnessing serious strife with militants, backed by Al-Qaida, capturing various cities and marching towards Baghdad.

Asked about safety of the nurses, the spokesperson said a "contingency planning unit" was working on "variety of options". He said some of the nurses have conveyed that they want to stay back there.

The External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday set up a 24-hour control room to provide information on Iraq. The control room has received around 60 phone calls till afternoon.

On when the Indians were kidnapped in Mosul, Akbaruddin said government was trying to gather more information. At the same time, he insisted that every possible effort was being made to deal with the situation.

"These are difficult situations. We are working with the company. Also we are trying to work with International Red Crescent which has confirmed to us (about the kidnapping). But they have also indicated that at this stage they do not know the location of these 40 Indian workers," he said.

"This is a situation where information is trickling in from various sources. It is the information that we are piecing together here based on inputs received," he said.

The spokesperson said at this stage government was trying to get as much information as possible and was trying to establish contacts in Mosul.

He said around 10,000 Indians are currently staying in Iraq and a little over 100 of them are stranded in violence-affected areas.

The spokesperson said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was also monitoring the situation and has also spoken to family members of those kidnapped.

"We are trying our best on all fronts. Let me assure you that we will not leave any stone unturned in our quest to help every single Indian national," he said.

Ready to bear expenses for safe return of Punjabis: Badal

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and said his state is ready to bear all expenses for the safe return of Punjabis kidnapped presumably by Islamic militants in oil-rich Mosul town of strife-torn Iraq.

Badal, who rushed to Delhi after hearing the news, asked the Centre to make all-out efforts to secure the release of the 40 kidnapped Indian workers, mainly from Punjab.

"We are very worried. I have met Union Minister Sushma Swaraj in this regard. I have asked the Centre to make all-out efforts to secure the safe release of the Indians, including those from Punjab, from strife-torn Iraq. We are ready to bear all the expenses for bringing them back," Badal said.

He said the state government cannot do anything in this regard except pay for their expenses and pressed the Centre to take immediate diplomatic steps to secure their release.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has also given a firm assurance that all efforts would be made for safe evacuation of people from Haryana who have been stranded in Iraq.

Haryana Government has also set up a control room with telephone number 0172-5059197 in Chandigarh for information on those stranded in Iraq.

(Agencies)

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