India says 39 workers abducted in Iraq in 2014 are confirmed dead
March 20 2018 12:21 PM
Sushma Swaraj with kin of 39 Indians captured by IS (file photo)
Sushma Swaraj with kin of 39 Indians captured by IS (file photo)

AFP/New Delhi

The bodies of 39 Indian construction workers kidnapped in Iraq in 2014 by the Islamic State group have been found in a mass grave, India's foreign minister said Tuesday.

Sushma Swaraj told the upper house of parliament the workers had been murdered by IS.

Their bodies had been found in the grave in the village of Badush northwest of the city of Mosul and taken to a local organisation for DNA testing.

‘Yesterday they told us that 38 samples had matched. The 39th had a partial match as he didn't have any immediate family,’ said Swaraj.

The 39 were abducted in June 2014 when IS militants overran large swathes of territory in Iraq and captured Mosul.

The victims were mostly from poor families in India's northern state of Punjab and had been working for a construction company in Mosul when they were rounded up.

‘We got to know that these people were moved from Mosul to Badush by their captors,’ Swaraj said.

The minister said that when India's junior foreign minister Vijay Kumar Singh and Iraqi government officials went to Badush, someone told them to inspect a mound in the village.

‘They said that they had buried many people there (in a mass grave). We reached there and requested Iraqi authorities to use a deep penetration radar, which detected many bodies under the surface,’ she told parliament.

When the area was excavated, Indian officials found many identification marks such as non-Iraqi shoes and Sikh religious bangles.

‘We felt these were our people... contacted a foundation working on the issue and shared missing workers' families' DNA samples with them for the identification process,’ the foreign minister told parliament.

The Indian government had never received any ransom demand or any other direct communication from the kidnappers.

India will send a special plane to bring the bodies home, said Swaraj.

‘Howsoever painful, the families will get the dead bodies after over three years. This will hopefully bring some closure to the grieving families,’ she said.

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