39 Indians in Mosul shot dead over a year ago: Iraqi official

Updated on Mar 22, 2018 01:43 PM IST

The 39 Indians killed in Iraq were shot dead, tests conducted by the Iraqi forensic department confirmed. The remains were reportedly just skeletons, indicating they were killed about a year ago.

Family members grieve by a portrait of Harsimran Singh, one of the 39 Indian workers whose bodies were found buried northwest of Mosul, in Babowal village of Punjab on Tuesday.(PTI)
Family members grieve by a portrait of Harsimran Singh, one of the 39 Indian workers whose bodies were found buried northwest of Mosul, in Babowal village of Punjab on Tuesday.(PTI)

The 39 Indian workers who were killed after being kidnapped in 2014 by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq’s Mosul were shot dead, most of them in the head, forensic tests have confirmed.

Iraq’s Department of Forensic Medicine under its Ministry of Health conducted the tests (and the DNA tests) on the bodies that had been exhumed by Martyrs Foundation from a mound in Badush, near Mosul. Dr Zaid Ali Abbas, head of the department, said over the phone from Baghdad that “most of the bodies had gunshot wounds on the head”.

“When the remains came to us, they were just skeletons, only bones. They had no muscle or tissue. Forensically, I can confirm that they definitely died over a year ago,’’ Abbas said.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had told Parliament on Wednesday of the death of the 39 factory workers. When asked how they had been killed and if they had been shot, Swaraj had said at a press conference: “Whether they were killed 6 months ago or 2 years ago becomes irrelevant because the search for the bodies could not have commenced until Mosul was liberated. Mosul was liberated on 9th of July and on 10th of July General (VK) Singh was sent there...

“So far as to as when they were killed, it cannot be ascertained, but the second thing that you asked, it is possible that when the certificates of Martyrs Foundation come, it might have something about how they were killed, whether by a bullet or how. When we will see the DNA profiling then we might find the answer to this question, but when were they killed, it has become irrelevant today because the dead bodies could be found only after that, they could not have been found earlier.”

In response to a specific question by Hindustan Times on Wednesday regarding the Indians being shot dead, a government official said: “We cannot say anything beyond what the external affairs minister has said.”

Harjit Masih, who had managed to flee the clutches of the Islamic State (IS) captors, had said that the Indian hostages had been lined up and shot. Swaraj said at her press conference on Tuesday that this was Masih’s “individual account”, and that his version of events about how he had escaped did not check out. She said the government could not have declared the 39 Indians dead without concrete evidence.

The remains will be handed over to the Indian embassy in Baghdad next week, Dr Abbas said. “While their identity has been established, we still need to complete the certification process.’’

At a separate press conference at the Indian embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, officials thanked the forensic team.

“We are grateful to the Forensics Department of Ministry of Health of Iraq for their hard work in completing the process of matching the DNAs retrieved from the human remains with the blood samples of the relatives of the deceased Indians brought from India,” said a release posted on the MEA website.

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    Harinder Baweja anchors special projects for Hindustan Times. She has been a journalist for three decades and has focussed on covering conflict zones, including Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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