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39 Indians killed in Iraq: Govt delayed information, gave false hope to families, says Congress

The bodies of 39 Indians were found in a mass grave in Iraq last year. The workers, most of them from Punjab, were taken hostage by Islamic State when it overran Mosul in 2014.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 16:33 IST
Agencies
Agencies
New Delhi/Chandigarh
Indians killed in Iraq,Indians killed in Mosul,Sushma Swaraj
MPs in Rajya Sabha observe silence to pay tribute to the 39 Indians who were killed in Iraq. (PTI)

The Congress on Tuesday criticised the government over “the delay” in announcing the deaths of 39 Indian construction workers and giving false hope to the families of the men who were abducted by Islamic State in Iraq in 2014.

The bodies were found in a mass grave and DNA tests confirmed they were of the men who went missing from Mosul, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.

“This is saddening for every Indian, rest I would ask why was this information was delayed by the government. They should tell how it happened, when they died,” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor told mediapersons. “ Also, the way government gave high hopes to the families was not right.”

Swaraj told the House that the authorities in Baghdad helped in identifying the bodies and the conformation came on Monday.

Congress leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded that the government give financial assistance to the families as well as jobs.

“The Congress offers condolences to families of those who were killed in Iraq. We are with their families in this painful and sad time,” Azad said outside Parliament.

The government tried to verify facts on the ground and got DNA tests done as it was getting different information from different sources, said minister of state for external affairs VK Singh, who had visited Iraq last year to gather information on the missing men.

Read: I heard the news on television, says sister of Iraq victim after Sushma Swaraj’s speech

“It is the job of the Opposition to take things the wrong way. I do not want to say anything about it,” said Singh.

There was hope but the situation deteriorated and the chances of the men being alive seemed slim, he said, adding the government was firm that it would declare the men dead only after it had full evidence.

“We had expected this, it should have been announced earlier--it was known since much earlier,” Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said.

A group of 40 Indian workers, most of them from Punjab, were taken hostage by IS when it overran Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, in 2014.

Harjit Masih, who managed to escape the abductors, had said rest of the group was gunned down in a desert near Badush on June 15, 2014.

Swaraj didn’t say where the men were killed but said the bodies were recovered from Badush, around 50km northwest of Mosul.

Several mass graves were found after IS was driven out of its stronghold in June 2017 following which the government collected DNA samples of the families.

Offering condolences, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded government jobs and financial assistance for the families.

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 14:26 IST