Thirty-nine Indians kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul in 2014 are dead, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The minister said that their bodies were spotted using deep penetration radar. The bodies were exhumed from mass graves and their identities confirmed by DNA tests, she said.
In her statement, Sushma said that the mortal remains were sent to Baghdad, and for the verification of their identities, DNA samples of relatives were sent. Four state governments – Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar – were involved, she said.
“The bodies were sent to Baghdad for DNA testing. The DNA of 38 Indians have been matched,” she said. The DNA of the 39th person matched 70%, Sushma said.
All of them were construction workers, mostly from Punjab.
Sushma also said that Minister of State V K Singh would be travelling to Iraq to bring back the bodies.
“General VK Singh will go to Iraq to bring back the mortal remains of Indians killed in Iraq. The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata,” she added.
The workers were taken hostage by ISIS militants when they took control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in 2014. The workers were trying to flee the city when they were taken hostage.
In June 2014, the Indian Embassy lost contact with the 40 workers, who had been working on a government construction project in Mosul.
The 40 Indians had been abducted by ISIS. According to a report in the Hindu, one of the workers, Harjit Masih, escaped when some Bangladeshi workers who had been abducted were released. At the time, Harjit told the Indian government that the 39 others had been executed, but the government did not believe him then.
In July 2017, Sushma Swaraj said that she would not declare them dead without concrete evidence. “It is a sin to declare a person dead without concrete evidence. I will not do this sin,” she told the Lok Sabha.
According to Financial Express, both Iraq and India had maintained that the 39 Indians were alive until October last year.