Harjit Masih's story of fleeing from IS false, was kept in protective custody: Swaraj

Swaraj also claimed that Masih's version of the events are false

Harjit Masih's story of fleeing from IS false, was kept in protective custody: Swaraj
File photo

NEW DELHI: Harjit Masih, the Indian worker who claims to have escaped from the clutches of Islamic State (IS) captivity in Iraq in June 2014, was kept in protective custody, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, adding that the stories stated by him are false.

Addressing the media in a conference on Tuesday, the senior BJP leader said that all allegations of government harassing Masih is completely baseless. “It is baseless that Harjit Masih was harassed, he was kept in protective custody. I had said this in Parliament earlier,” said Swaraj.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister confirmed that the 39 Indians, who went missing in Iraq's Mosul since 2014, are 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.

She confirmed that banned terrorist outfit IS had killed all of them.

''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,' Swaraj said.

In 2015, Swaraj had denied Masih's claims of all 39 Indians being killed by IS.

“Harjit Masih is claiming that all of them are dead, but I do not believe him, will continue with search” Swaraj had said at the time. 

A group of Indian labourers, mostly from Punjab, Bihar and Himachal, was taken hostage by IS 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, managed to flee and claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. 

In an interview, Masih claimed that four days after the kidnapping incident, all the 40 Indians were asked to kneel down by the terrorists near a railway track. Later, he heard the firing sound of assault rifles and one by one men dropped dead.

Masij claimed he was shot in the leg and pretended to be dead til the terrorists left. He, somehow, managed to reach an Iraqi Army checkpoint in Erbil, from where he was picked up by the Indian embassy.

Masih further said, he sent back to India days later, and remained in the custody of security agencies for three months.