Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal today said that over 40 people from Punjab are being held hostage in strife-torn Iraq and the Centre is continuously monitoring the situation there.
However, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi that the Indians stranded in Iraq's city of Mosul remain "untraceable".
Asked about reports claiming that they were abducted, Akbaruddin said, "We cannot confirm it. However, they are uncontactable."
Sukhbir told reporters here that over 40 people from Punjab are being held hostage in that country.
He said that Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had spoken to him this morning and informed about steps taken by the Centre for the Indians stranded in Iraq.
"Sushma Swaraj informed me that the Centre is monitoring the situation on regular basis and has taken up the matter with the concerned people to ensure safety of those struck in Iraq," Sukhbir said.
He, however, did not provide the exact number of people taken hostage in Iraq, but said it was between 40 to 50.
Earlier, Akbaruddin said, "we have decided to strengthen the embassy by sending a seasoned Indian diplomat Mr Suresh Reddy who will travel today to Baghdad to assist the embassy in its efforts."
Amid mounting concerns over safety of Indians stranded in Iraq, India has set up a control room here to provide information to their families.
In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Crescent had contacted 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit and provided them assistance, he said.