New Delhi: Close to four years after they were abducted by ISIS in Mosul, the government on Tuesday announced that all the 39 Indian workers, most of them from Punjab, are dead and their bodies have been recovered.
Announcing this in parliament, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said, “We used a deep penetration satellite to see a mass grave… We requested that the bodies be brought out, exhumed”. She said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs.
“It was a most difficult task to get the proof. Such a barbaric terror organisation…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 the Rajya Sabha, commending her junior minister V.K. Singh for supervising the job.
As many as 40 Indians were originally abducted by terrorist organisation ISIS in June 2015 from Mosul in Iraq but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a suo motu statement in Rajya Sabha. The remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed.
Search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS.
DNA testing was done by Martyrs Foundation which has established the identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70% matching of the DNA for the 39th person, she said, adding that Singh would be flying to Iraq to bring back the bodies on a special flight.
Most of the dead Indians are construction labourers mostly from Punjab, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Bengal, who were reportedly taken hostage when the ISIS overran Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014, while they were trying to flee.
My husband went to Iraq in 2011&I spoke to him last on 15 June’14. We were always told us that they were alive. We don’t demand anything from the government: Manjeet Kaur wife of Davinder Singh, who was among 39 Indians killed in Iraq’s Mosul #Jalandhar pic.twitter.com/Vq983kCkSb
— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018
According to NDTV, Swaraj had told the families of the workers last year that an Iraqi official had told V.K 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 Badoosh.
The government had been accused by opposition parties including the Congress of “misleading” the families who have made umpteen rounds to Delhi 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, NDTV reported.
In July last, while making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha had said that it was “a sin to declare anyone dead without solid proof.”
When the Opposition asked her about the destroyed jail in which the workers were supposed to have been kept hostage, Swaraj had said,“The jail has been destroyed (after ISIS took control of it). But were they still there? How many inmates were there, how many were shifted or killed? These are all unanswered questions,”, adding that Iraq’s Foreign Minister had said that they “do not have concrete information whether they (Indians) are alive or not. He never said they are dead.”