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Indian truck drivers arrive to joyous welcome

Source: PTI
September 03, 2004 09:03 IST
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After spending almost a month-and-a-half in the captivity of Iraqi militants, three Indian truck drivers abducted in the war-torn nation reached Delhi on Friday morning to a joyous welcome.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed and family members welcomed Antaryami, Tilak Raj and Sukhdeo Singh on their arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport by a Kuwait Airlines flight.

The Indians and four others were driving trucks in Iraq for Kuwait and Gulf Link (KGL) transport company when they were taken hostage by a little known militant group 'Islamic Secret Army - Holders of Black Banners' on July 21.

They were set free on Wednesday after KGL agreed to the abductors' demand to exit Iraq. The company also claimed to have paid $500,000 as ransom.

"We went to Kuwait from Delhi in April but we did not know anything about our posting in Baghdad," an emotional Tilak Raj said.

A much-relieved Antaryami said, "I would like to thank the government, the minister and our friends in the Arab world who worked towards our release."

Earlier, the three men arrived at the IGIA at 0636 IST on Kuwait Airways Flight KU-381.

After presenting them before the media, authorities took them inside the ceremonial lounge to meet their anxious families. The three truck drivers will visit a gurudwara in Delhi to offer prayers and thank the Lord for their release.

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Sukhdeo, escorted by officials from the Punjab government, will travel to his village Makhadaona Kalan by road while Antaryami and Tilak Raj will proceed to their respective villages in Una district in Himachal Pradesh.

Later, Ahamed told reporters that it was a happy occasion for everyone who was at the airport to receive 'our three brothers'.

"God has answered our collective prayers. I am extremely happy that the three brothers have returned. The nation is relieved at their release."

He also thanked mediapersons for being 'very supportive' during the hostage crisis.
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