Three Indians were among 14 pilgrims shot and killed by Iraqi insurgents while they were travelling to Karbala, the sacred Shia city in Iraq.
According to reports from Baghdad, gunmen stopped a bus with 40 pilgrims on August 31, separated the women and children before shooting the men "execution style", after tying their hands and legs.
The Indians killed were all from Andhra Pradesh and have been identified as Jaffer Mashadi of Vishakhapatnam, Mulla Mohiuddin Baig and Mohammad Ahmad Ali, both from Hyderabad.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said on Saturday that the men were part of a group of 40 pilgrims from India and Pakistan. Citing information received from the Indian mission in Baghdad, Ahamed said the armed men intercepted the pilgrims' bus on August 31, segregated male members of the group and whisked them away.
There is, however, an advisory from the Indian government that prohibits all Indians from travelling to Iraq. Grieving family members of Mohammed Ahmad Ali (42), a native of Chanchalguda in the Old City of Hyderabad, said he was the sole breadwinner for the family comprising his mother, wife Malika Begum and three teenaged children
"What will happen to us? I should have died rather than him," says Mariyam Begum, mother of Ahmad Ali, amidst intermittent bouts of loud crying.
"He had been on pilgrimage to Karbala several times in the past. But there was never any problem. Despite the ongoing trouble, he went on the trip as he was confident that there was no threat to pilgrims," said son Yousuf.
A pall of gloom descended on the houses of Dr Mulla Mohiuddin Baig (55), another victim belonging to the city. A stream of relatives and patients lined up at his house to express condolences.
Mohiuddin Baig, a registered medical practitioner, leaves behind two sons and a daughter. Incidentally, his wife accompanied him on this pilgrimage and she was a witness to the ghastly killing.
The third victim, Jaffar Mashadi belongs to Razole in East Godavari district. A retired official, it was his first trip to Iraq on pilgrimage and his wife and mother-in-law accompanied him. He was killed in front of the two women.