India on Friday ruled out involvement of terror group Boko Haram in the abduction of two Indians from Gboko, a town in the Benue state of north-central Nigeria, and said it appears that "local criminals" were involved.
The duo -Mangipudi Sai Srinivas (from Andhara Pradesh) and his colleague Anish Sharma (from Karnataka) - were travelling to Dangote Cement Plc Plant in a car from their residential quarters around 7.20 pm on Wednesday when a group of armed men kidnapped them at a traffic signal.
"I have obtained a detailed report on the two Indian nationals Sai Srinivas and Anish Sharma who have been abducted in Nigeria. I have ... Spoken to Mrs.Lalita Srinivas. I have assured her that we are doing everything to secure their release," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup described the abduction as "nothing surprising or new in that area", saying such incidents keep happening there.
Asserting that there has been no ransom demand so far, the Spokesperson said, "As far as our information goes there is no hand of terror group Boko Haram and it seems local criminal elements were responsible for the act."
He also said Indian mission in Abuja was in touch with Nigerian authorities in the matter and the ministry was hopeful that they will return safely.
Asked about the status of another abductee Judith D'Souza, an Indian aid worker, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan last month, Swarup said during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tashkent on the sidelines of SCO Summit last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured that his security and intelligence agencies were making all efforts for her safe release.
In this regard, the Spokesperson once again reiterated government's advisory asking all citizens not to undertake "non-essential" travel to disturbed areas.
Speaking to reporters in Visakhapatnam, Srinivas's wife M Lalitha said she was optimistic about early release of her husband and his colleague.
Swaraj called her and told her that the terrorist organisations were not involved in the crime (as feared earlier), but it was suspected to be the handiwork of local criminal gangs who kidnap for ransom, Lalitha said.
Swaraj assured her that the Indian Government was taking every step to contact the kidnappers and negotiate the release of Srinivas and Sharma, she said.
"I learnt that a few months back some armed gangs in Nigeria kidnapped two persons, Indians, working at Dangote Cement Plc Plant in Gboko (the same company where Srinivas and Sharma work) and released them after the company paid ransom. So far (in the present case) kidnappers have not contacted anyone to communicate their demand," Lalitha told reporters.
"The management of Dangote Cement said the company would pay the ransom to secure release of my husband and we are much optimistic that my husband and Anish Sharma would return to India safely," she said.