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World News

20 Mar 2018

39 Indian Hostages In Iraq Are Dead, Says Sushma Swaraj

39 Indian Hostages In Iraq Are Dead, Says Sushma Swaraj
NDTV:

The 39 Indians missing in Iraq since they were kidnapped by ISIS in Mosul four years ago were killed by the terror outfit, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in parliament today. "We wanted to give the families closure only after getting concrete proof," she said.

The government said it received confirmation yesterday that the DNAs of 38 of the missing Indians had matched with remains found underneath a mass grave, one of many found in and around Mosul and Badush after their liberation from ISIS.  One body was a 70 per cent match.

"We used a deep penetration satellite to see a mass grave... It had exactly 39 bodies with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. We requested that the bodies be brought out, exhumed," Ms Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha."It was a most difficult task to get the proof. Such a barbaric terror organization...there were mass graves. It was a pile of bodies. To track down the bodies of our people and to take them to Baghdad for DNA tests was a huge task," she informed, commending her junior, Minister of State VK Singh, for supervising the job in challenging circumstances.

The opposition  Congress condoled the deaths but its leader Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to remind the government that it had "assured us last year that the Indians were alive".

The Indian labourers mostly from Punjab, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Bengal, were taken hostage when the ISIS overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in 2014. The workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were caught.

Days after Mosul's liberation from ISIS was announced, minister VK Singh was sent to Iraq.

Last year, Ms Swaraj had told the families of the workers that an Iraqi official had told VK Singh the Indians were made to work at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were thrown into a jail in Badush.

The government had been accused by opposition parties including the Congress of "misleading" the families and the country by saying that the prisoners were in jail. Congress's Partap Singh Bajwa had claimed that the jail Ms Swaraj had referred to was in ruins.

One of the captured Indians, Harjit Masih from Punjab's Gurdaspur, managed to escape posing as a Muslim and claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government rejected it.

More than 10,000 Indians fled Iraq amid the upsurge in violence in 2014, including dozens of nurses who were held briefly by suspected ISIS terrorists in Tikrit and Mosul before being allowed to return home.

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