New Delhi: Treading cautiously on the reports that 40 Indian workers abducted in Iraq have been killed by the Islamic State, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the government was continuously receiving intelligence from its sources in the region that the Indian nationals are alive and safe.
Responding to the allegations by the Congress –that the government had lied to the nation on the fate of the Indian nationals, Swaraj said reports about their killing have been making rounds for a while now and the source of all such reports was Harjeet Massih, who escaped from the clutches of IS.
The men were working for a Turkish construction company in Mosul when they were abducted by the militants of the Islamic State in June.
Massih claimed that he and other Indians were abducted, along with Bangladeshis, on June 15 and taken in trucks towards Erbil. On the way, they separated Bangaldeshis and Indians. While Bangladeshi were set free, the Indians were taken to an isolated place and assassinated. He said he was also hit by two bullets but he managed to escape after the IS fighters took him for dead and left the place.
Swaraj said, “There are many holes in his story. We had two options. Either believe his version and stop the search or not accept his version at face value and continue search,” adding that the government of India had contacted many countries, organisations and individuals seeking information and help on the Indian nationals.
“Six sources have told us that they have not been killed. It is not just verbal but written information. As I could have shown it only to those who had taken the oath of secrecy of office like me. I showed it to Arun Jaitley and Harsimrat Kaur Badal,” she said.
On the identity of the sources, Swaraj said that she cannot name the individuals. If their cover is blown then they will be assassinated within twenty-four hours, she said.
The Minister said that the government will continue its efforts even if there is 1% chance that they are alive.
On the fate of Harjeet, Swaraj said, “Harjeet is safe and is in the protective care of the government.”
The Minister also informed that house that she has been constant touch with the families of the abducted men. “I have met them five times,” she said.