Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a statement in Parliament said all 39 Indians, who were kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul in June 2015, were killed and their bodies have been recovered.
Providing a timeline of the events, Sushma said, “As many as 40 Indians along with some Bangladeshis were abducted by the terrorist organisation ISIS three years ago. But one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh and the remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed later.”
Swaraj said, “The last discussion on the matter was held on July 27, 2017 when I had said that I will not declare them dead till I get any concrete proof. It will be a great irresponsibility and a sin on the part of our government. But I had said the day I will get a strong proof, I will request the chairman to stop the Parliament proceedings and give information about it. And if Parliament would not be in session, I will inform the people of India within 10 minutes on Twitter.”
She said, “I have two information. First, Harjit Masih who escaped was lying and, second, the Indians are dead. And I have proofs for these.” Masih, a resident of Gurdaspur in Punjab, was arrested in March this year on charges of forgery connected to an illegal immigration racket. Also Read | 39 Indians kidnapped by Islamic State in Iraq are dead: Sushma Swaraj informs Parliament
The External Affairs Minister further said, “When General VK Singh went to Iraq to track them, I asked him to meet the owner of the company in Mosul where the Indians were working. The owner told Singh that 40 Indians and some Bangladeshis were working in his company. When ISIS started capturing Mosul, he asked all the people who were working there to leave. Iraqi residents left first, then the others, but the Indians and the Bangladeshis did not leave.”
“The owner then called his caterer, who said that one day when they were coming to have food at his place, the ISIS people saw them and asked, ‘Who are you?'”
Relating further, Sushma said: “They said we are Indians and Bangladeshis. The ISIS then said that these people will not stay here from now and asked the caterer to take them to a textile factory. After reaching there, they separated Indians and Bangladeshis. After some days, they took the Bangladeshis to Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. The caterer said they gave these responsibilities to him.”
“The caterer told Singh that he got ready to take them to Erbil in his own van.” Sushma said, “Harjit knows what he did that night. And I am guessing they asked the caterer to give Masih a muslim name and free him along with the Bangladeshis. The owner said that once he got a call from a man called Ali who said he is the one who is supposed to leave with the Bangladeshis.”
The EAM said, “Harjit called me from Erbil and asked me to save him. I first asked that how did he reach there. He was talking in Punjabi. He said he doesn’t know anything about that and just said Aunty ji please save me.”
“He later cooked up a story saying we were taken to a jungle where ISIS terrorists fired. The bullet shot his leg. But somehow he managed to leave and the others got killed. Hence, Masih’s story was wrong. He had left in the beginning only by becoming Ali,” she said.
She further added, “Now the next day when the ISIS counted the heads, they found out that only 39 Indians were there. So they thought this is not the proper place to keep them now. Then the ISIS took them to Badush.”
“The company’s owner said he doesn’t know anything about what happened after that. There is a prison in Badush. Whether they kept the Indians there or killed them at the same time, I have no idea about that.”
But then General VK Singh, our ambassador Pradeep Rajput and an officer from the Iraq government together left for Badush. “When I raised this issue in Parliament last time, Iraq’s foreign minister was here and I asked him that when VK Singh goes there, I want a person from the Iraq government to be with him so that he doesn’t face any difficulty in tracing the Indians. The Iraqi minister had assured me of that,” she said.
Search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS. Deep penetration radars were used to establish that the mound indeed was a mass grave, she said, adding the Indian authorities requested their Iraqi counterpart to exhume the bodies.
Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then sent to Baghdad for DNA testing. For verification of bodies DNA samples of relatives were sent there, four state governments, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar were involved. Here’s what we know about the 2014 abduction and thereafter
DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established the identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70 per cent matching of the DNA for the 39th person, she said.
Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh will be flying to Iraq to bring back the bodies on a special flight.