NEW DELHI: Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs VK Singh, who is set to leave for war-torn Iraq on April 1, has once again reiterated that the Narendra Modi Government made sincere efforts to bring 39 Indians who were kidnapped and killed by the terrorist group ISIS, home alive.
Speaking exclusively to Vishal Pandey of Zee Media, ex-Army chief said that the BJP government left no stone unturned to trace all 39 Indian nationals who went missing from Iraq's Mosul city in 2014.
While confirming that he will leave for Iraq on April 1 to bring the mortal remains of 39 Indians, Singh regretted that despite all efforts they could not be brought back alive.
MoS said that the Indian government was honest in its search for the missing Indians and did not hesitate to take the help of the Government in Iraq.
He informed that so far 38 dead bodies have been identified, and the nearly 70% of the DNA test has been conducted on the body of one Raju Yadav who hailed from Bihar.
Replying to a question on Congress party moving a privilege motion against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Singh said, ''why they did not visit Iraq in 2014. Who stopped them from doing so.”
The Congress-led Opposition has alleged that EAM Swaraj and Singh "deliberately misled" nation and the families of the 39 Indians.
Singh also made an appeal to the respective state governments to provide all possible help to the kith and kin of those killed in Iraq.
Making a statement on the issue in Lok Sabha recently, Sushma Swaraj had hailed the role of VK Singh in ascertaining the identity of the Indians who got killed in Iraq.
She had made a special mention of him while addressing Parliament.
“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,” Sushma had 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," she had further said.
Sushma Swaraj had also told the House that when VK Singh would return from Iraq with the mortal remains, the plane would first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata.
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 additional agency inputs)