New Delhi (Updated): The 39 Indians missing in Mosul in Iraq were killed by ISIS, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday in her statement in the Rajya Sabha.
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.
Making a statement in the Upper House, Sushma said, last time when she had made a statement in the House in July 2017, she had said that she couldn’t presume them dead till she got any proof. She had said that the day she had proof in that regard, she would inform Parliament if it was in session and post a statement on Twitter if it was’nt. “Today, I can confirm two things: one that the statement made by survivor Harjeet Maxi, who claimed that the Indians are alive, is false. Second is that, unfortunately, the Indians who were abducted are dead.”
The Minister said that the bodies of the deceased were exhumed from a mound. The DNA tests have confirmed the identity of the 38 dead, 70% match was established for the 39th body.
Search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS. Deep penetration radars were used to establish that the mound indeed was a mass grave, she said, adding that the Indian authorities had requested their Iraqi counterparts to exhume the bodies.
Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.
“DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established the identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70% matching of the DNA for the 39th person,” she said.
Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh will be flying to Iraq to bring back the bodies on a special flight. He had earlier been to Iraq only to come back with no confirmation of the whereabouts of the missing Indians.
The crew of an Indian television, Aaj Tak, had tried to accompany the junior foreign minister to Mosul. They had taken the ill-advised land route while the general had flown to the north Iraqi city. The crew got too intimidated by a group of menacing men on the way, after which the journalists abandoned their mission and returned to India, informed Shams Tahir Khan and Gaurav Sawant on the said channel this morning.
22 of the 39 Indians killed by ISIS were from Punjab. Their families continued to swing between the hope of the men being found alive and the fear that they would hear the worst.
After Mosul was freed from the clutches of the Islamic State in July, there was hope that the missing Indians will be found. However, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, during his India visit in July, said he was not sure if the men were alive or not.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier assured the families, who have met her several times, that all efforts were being made to trace the missing men, who had been held hostage in Iraq’s Mosul town by terror outfit ISIS in June 2014.
The affected families, who are all from poor backgrounds mostly from rural areas of Punjab, say they can do nothing else but pin hope on the government’s and the minister’s assurances. A man from Punjab, Harjit Masih, who escaped from the clutches of ISIS in June 2014 had claimed that all 39 Indians had been killed. However, Sushma Swaraj has maintained that there was no information confirming that the Indians were dead.
The families of the 39 Indians who went missing in Iraq’s Mosul in June 2014 were asked to provide their DNA samples but were given no reason, their kin told agencies in October. The families of some of the missing Indians from Amritsar district were asked to go to the Government Medical College in Amritsar to give DNA samples.