New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) After Iraq's escalating anarchy claimed the lives of three Indian pilgrims and eight Pakistanis who were on their way from Syria to the Shia holy city of Karabala, the Indian survivors, all women, were preparing to return home soon.
'The remaining Indians would be taken to Tehran in two-three days and they would be brought to India,' E. Ahamed, minister of state for external affairs, told IANS Sunday.
'We are in touch with the Indian embassies in Baghdad and Tehran so that their travel documents could be arranged and these people would be brought back as soon as the formalities are finished,' he said.
All the three Indians killed Thursday were from Andhra Pradesh and were Shias, according to the relatives of the slain in Hyderabad. The identity of the killers or their religious affiliation is not known yet, but sources say the pilgrims got caught in the ongoing Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq.
The Indian men were seized from Rutba town and later killed along with the Pakistanis while they were on their way to Karbala, 80 km from Baghdad, for a pilgrimage, Ahamed said.
The three - Jaffer Mashaddi and Mohammed Ahamed Ali from Hyderabad and Mohuiddin Beig from Godavari district - were part of a 15-member group of pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh. The attackers spared all 12 women of the Indian group, including its leader Syeda Zianab.
'The Indian pilgrims are currently in Karbala. The Iraqi government and the people here are helping them,' Mohsin Badani, a resident of that city aiding the visitors, told IANS over phone.
'Once their papers are processed they would proceed on their journey back to India,' Badani said.
The group had left India Aug 23 and entered Iraq after visiting pilgrim centres in Syria and Jordan. As the land of Karbala is considered holy, all three slain pilgrims were buried there in the presence of other members of the group, their family members were informed.
Ahamed said the ministry was also in touch with the Faiz-e-Hussaini trust, based in Surat, Gujarat, which had made accommodation arrangements for the survivors.
Indian embassy officials would soon to go to Baghdad to make arrangements for the travel documents of the Indian survivors, the minister said.
'We are in constant touch with them and trying to bring them back as soon as possible,' added Ahamed.