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Didn't mislead, needed proof of Indian captives' death, says Sushma Swaraj

21 March 2018, 08:03 | Hattie Nash

Didn't mislead, needed proof of Indian captives' death, says Sushma Swaraj

39 Indians killed by Islamic State in Iraq

"We stand in solidarity with families of Indians killed in Iraq", said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj informed the parliament that 39 citizens lost in Iraq since 2014 have been declared dead. Their mortal remains were exhumed and sent to Iraq's capital Baghdad for DNA sample verification.

"I have concrete proof that 39 Indians have been killed", Swaraj said about the Indians who were abducted by ISIL in 2014. "Because if a person's alive and we declare him dead, it's a sin and I won't commit this sin".

Clarifying herself, Sushma said she had personally talked to the foreign ministers of the respective countries and had also asked for evidence for the death of the 39 Indians in Iraq's Mosul.

The minister added: "General VK Singh, our ambassador Pradeep Rajput and an officer from the Iraq government together left for Badush... search operations led to a mound in Badush where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS". The plane would first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata, the minister was quoted as saying.

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The abducted workers, most from northern India, had been employed by a construction company operating near Mosul when militants captured wide swaths of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. "We wanted to give the families closure only after concrete proof", Swaraj told Parliament on Tuesday. Also, they both added the details about the ordeal they Indians suffered at the hands of the ISIS. Of the 40 Indians, one Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur had managed to escape and had claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others.

"For the last four years the same minister has been telling me that we have traced their location and they're alive", Gurpinder Kaur, sister of one of the dead workers, told reporters in Punjab. "Four state governments - Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar were involved", Sushma said.

The department had earlier collected DNA samples from the kin of the hostages, which was then matched with the remains of bodies found in one of the mass graves. Iraqi authorities said the mass grave held 39 bodies, but only 38 have been positively identified through DNA analysis. "The government should share the DNA reports with us and also get the DNA test conducted once again in India so that we can be sure that the body handed over to us is that of my brother", he said. Later at a press conference, Swaraj admitted that at this stage, it would not be possible for her to say when or how the Indians died.

Refuting claims of mistreatment made by Masih, an Indian labourer who had gone to Iraq for work, Swaraj said he was never harassed by the government and that he was kept in protective custody.

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