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39 Indians kidnapped by ISIS in 2014 declared dead

Tuesday March 20, 2018 6:48 PM, & Agencies

Susham Swaraj

New Delhi: 39 Indian workers who were kidnapped by ISIS terrorists from Iraq’s Mosul in 2014 have been declared dead. The declaration was made by Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

"With full proof I can say these 39 are dead," Swaraj informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The government had earlier said it would declare 39 Indians missing in Iraq's Mosul since 2014 dead only with full evidence.

A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by the ISIS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014. Of the 40 men, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur managed to escape by faking his identity as a Muslim from Bangladesh and claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government rejected Masih’s version.

Among them 06 are from Bihar, 04 are from Himachal Pradesh and 02 are from West Bengal. Rest all are from Punjab.

Swaraj earlier said in the Rajya Sabha that their bodies were recovered from Badosh — a village in the northwest of Mosul — and their identities established through DNA testing although it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed.

The bodies were detected when Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh scoured the Badush area along with the Indian envoy and an Iraqi official. They were told by a local about a mound around 25 km from Mosul, where it seemed like many bodies had been buried.

To determine whether the mound was indeed a mass grave, deep penetration radars were used. The mound had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, Sikh kada (bracelet), non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then exhumed and sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.

"We recovered ID cards, long hair, kada and some non-Iraqi footwear," Swaraj said.

“The mortal remains, which were exhumed from a mass grave, will be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their relatives”, she added.

Meanwhile, the grieving families of the 39 workers on Tuesday said they were given false assurance for years by the Centre, which said that the men were alive. Gurpinder Kaur, the sister of Punjab resident Manjinder Singh who was killed in Iraq, heard the news on television, and refused to believe that her brother was dead because she said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told her that her brother was alive.

“Our fate is like that of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh violence who are still being deprived of justice,” Gurpinder, who galvanised the families of the missing men in the region, said.

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