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Sunday 23 February 2020

Rahul, Mamata express shock at death of 39 Indians in Iraq

A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq's second largest city Mosul in 2014

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi today expressed shock and his deepest condolences at the death of 39 Indians in captivity in Iraq.

His party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, added that it was not just a tragedy for the families but for the entire country.

“I’m shocked to hear that 39 Indians who were in captivity since 2014, in Iraq, are now confirmed dead.

“My deepest condolences to the families of those who have lived in hope, that their loved ones will return unharmed. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you today,” Gandhi said on Twitter.

Adding that the entire country was sad, Azad said the Ministry of External Affairs had forcefully asserted in Parliament last year that they are alive but was now saying they are dead.

A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014.

One of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha. The other 39 are dead and their bodies have been recovered, she said.

While it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed, their bodies were recovered from Badosh, a village northwest of Mosul, and their identities established through DNA testing, she said.

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

“I had said that I will not declare anyone dead without substantive proof. today I have come to fulfil that commitment,” she said.

Hours after the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made the statement about 39 Indians, who were abducted by ISIS, a sister of one of the victims have expressed the shock over their death.

“For past four years, External Affairs Minister was telling that they were alive. Don’t know what to believe anymore. I am waiting to speak with her (Sushma Swaraj),” said Gurpinder Kaur, sister of Manjinder Singh who was among 39 Indians killed in Iraq.

She also said that no information was given to them and she heard her statement she made in Parliament.

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.

Meanwhile, reacting to the development, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said, “Shattered at the heart-wrenching news from @SushmaSwaraj that the 39 Indians missing in Iraq, most of whom were Punjabis, are dead. My heart goes out to the families who had been living in hope since their reported abduction by ISIS in 2014. Prayers with all of them.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed shock.

“Deeply saddened and shocked with the very sad news from #Mosul. Words are not enough to console the 39 grieving families. Our thoughts and prayers with them”, Mamata tweeted.

 

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