Swaraj on Tuesday told Parliament that all 39 Indians, abducted by the ISIS in Iraq almost three years back, were killed and their bodies were recovered. However, Indian authorities had said they would not corroborate that the workers were dead until it could be confirmed by concrete evidence.
Addresing the media soon after her statement in Rajya Sabha, Swaraj did not give a direct answer to when the 39 Indians were killed.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is expected to bring the remains of the missing Indians back to the country.
"Shattered at the heart-wrenching news. that the 39 Indians missing in Iraq, most of whom were Punjabis, are dead", Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Twitter. "The plane carrying the mortal remains will first reach Amritsar, then Patna and then go to Kolkata", Sushma Swaraj said. Masih said that Indians were working at a factory in Iraq in 2014.
"Did the government think about the families even once, when they were desperately waiting for their dear ones for four years, he said, adding the minister was now blaming the Congress for politicising it, while praising her government and thanking the PM and her junior minister". The relatives of the 39 Indians were made to undergo DNA test past year.
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To determine whether the mound was indeed a mass grave, deep penetration radars were used.
Speaking on Harjit Masih's claims, Sushma said that he is just an individual who can simply claim that 39 others are dead, adding that the Government cannot say so very easily as it has to be responsible.
Referring to criticism from some opposition members and families of the deceased who said they got to know about death of their loved ones through television, Swaraj said she followed parliamentary procedures. Swaraj said she had contacted Masih's employer and found out that he escaped from Iraq along with some Bangladeshis claiming that his name was "Ali" and that a "caterer helped Masih". One person whose DNA has matched 70 percent with the samples is from Bihar. Government will send a special aircraft for bringing the dead bodies with proper documentation along with their identities.
Iraqi and Indian authorities said 38 of the bodies had been positively identified through DNA analysis. He said the bodies will be sent back to India "in a couple of weeks or so".
Masih, who hails from Gurdaspur in Punjab, was the only man from the group of 40 Indians kidnapped by the ISIS in Mosul who had managed to flee. He said that a few days after the Indian contingent was taken hostage in June, they were all taken to a hilltop and shot from behind.