New Delhi: Thirty nine 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 told parliament on March 20.
“We wanted to give the families closure only after getting concrete proof,” she added.
The government said it received confirmation a day earlier that the DNAs of 38 of the missing Indians had matched with the 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 percent match.
A moment’s silence was observed in the Rajya Sabha after the foreign minister’s statement, ndtv.com reported.
“We used a deep penetration satellite to see a mass grave… We requested that the bodies be brought out, exhumed,” 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 V K 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 laborers 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 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 Swaraj had referred to was in ruins.
More than 10,000 Indians fled Iraq amid the upsurge in violence in 2014, including dozens of nurses who were held briefly by suspected IS terrorists in Tikrit and Mosul before being allowed to return home.