New Delhi: Putting to rest speculations about the fate of 39 Indians who went missing in Iraq's Mosul since 2014, External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday declared them dead. ''Out of the 40, who were kidnapped, one person managed to escape, while others were confirmed dead after DNA samples of their relatives matched from the bodies exhumed from a mound, '' EAM Swaraj said in Rajya Sabha.
Swaraj said that the dreaded terror outfit Islamic State (ISIS) had killed all of them.
Speaking in the Upper House, Swaraj said, ''Mortal remains were sent to Baghdad. For verification of bodies, the DNA samples of their relatives were sent there and four state governments - Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar - were involved in this.''
''Yesterday, we got information that the DNA samples of 38 people have matched and DNA of the 39th person has matched 70 percent,'' Sushma told lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha.
Yesterday we got information that DNA samples of 38 people have matched and DNA of the 39th person has matched 70 per cent: EAM Sushma Swaraj in #RajyaSabha on 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq's Mosul pic.twitter.com/almEfDANlz
— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018
I would like to confirm with a heavy heart that they have been killed by the Islamic State militia, she said.
The EAM further informed that Union Minister and former Army chief General VK Singh will now go to Iraq to bring back the mortal remains of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq.
''The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata, '' Swaraj informed.
Swaraj had earlier refused to declare them dead without credible proof, saying this would be amount to "committing a sin".
"Declaring anyone dead without proof is a sin and I won't commit a sin," Swaraj had said in the Lok Sabha, responding to allegations that she was "misleading the house" on whether the Indians were alive.
Sushma Swaraj had then asserted that it was the government's duty to keep looking for the Indians, given that so far, "there are no bodies, no bloodstains, no list, no ISIS videos."
A group of Indian labourers, mostly from Punjab, Bihar and Himachal, was taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq's second largest city Mosul in 2014.
The workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were intercepted and taken hostage by the ISIS fighters.
One of the captured Indians, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur, had managed to escape and claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others.
The Government of India (GoI) rejected his claim and maintained that all efforts were on to find the missing Indians and, without any credible information, the workers would be considered alive.
The GoI had even asked Iraq for help in locating the missing Indians after Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from ISIS.
The government in Iraq too had earlier expressed its inability to confirm if Indians taken hostage by the ISIS in Mosul three years ago were alive or dead.
(With Agency inputs )