Two Freed Teachers Come Home to India from Libya

By Altaf Ahmad
150804-IN-relative-620 Venugopal, relative of Indian national Balaram, who is thought to have been abducted in Libya, speaks to the media in Hyderabad, India, July 31, 2015.

Two teachers returned home to India on Tuesday, six days after being taken captive with two Indian colleagues from the University of Sirte in a part of Libya where the Islamic State (IS) extremist group is active.

“Four of us were together [during captivity]. They released me and Vijay Kumar. I have been told that Gopikrishna and Balram are safe. I am requesting them that they too are released,” Laxmikant Ramakrishna said after landing at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, the Indian Express reported.

The 37-year-old professor said that he and his three colleagues were in a taxi en route to the airport when they were stopped, according to NDTV.

But later they were recognized by former students who had joined IS, the report said.

“The captors were our students … some only 13-17 years old. I had even failed some of them but they treated us very well. Their sheikh (boss) told me the other two will be fine,” Ramakrishna was quoted as saying.

Indian government efforts to secure the release of the two other detainees were ongoing, according to news reports. An outbreak of fighting between a Libyan faction and IS militants in the region where the abduction occurred had delayed the efforts, the reports said.

On Tuesday, it remained unclear who detained the four Indians last Wednesday, although media reports suggested that they belonged to IS, which controls some parts of Libya.

The four were held after being stopped at a checkpoint some 50 km (31 miles) from Sirte, as they were heading home to India via Tripoli and Tunis, according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

‘Very happy’

Ramakrishna’s family thanked the Indian government and other officials for securing his release.

“We are very happy and proud of the Indian government. We thank each and everybody, media and family friends,” said his wife, Prathiba, who welcomed him at the airport.
Kumar, who like Ramakrishna hails from southern Karnataka state, returned home Tuesday evening.

"Another homecoming from Libya! Sudhi Choudhary, Deputy Passport Officer receives Vijay Kumar Srinivasalu @ Bengaluru," MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a message posted on Twitter.

Ramakrishna and Kumar were set free by their captors on Friday, two days after the four were abducted.

The fact that they were teachers helped them regain their freedom, Kumar told an Indian newspaper before leaving Libya.

“Our profession worked to our advantage. ‘We respect teachers,’ our captors told us,” The Hindustan Times quoted him as saying in a phone interview from Tripoli.


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