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Ground radar, DNA tests: How Iraq found the bodies of 39 Indians killed by IS

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told Rajya Sabha that 39 Indians, abducted by Islamic State in Iraq’s Mosul town three years ago, are dead and their bodies have been recovered.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2018 09:40 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Associated Press, Baghdad
Indians missing in Iraq,Indians killed in Iraq,Parliament
Family members of one of the 39 Indian workers killed in Iraq, grieve at their home on the outskirts of Amritsar on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)

Iraqi authorities have discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 39 Indian construction workers abducted when Islamic State militants overran the northern city of Mosul in 2014, officials said Tuesday.

The bodies were found buried near the village of Badush, northwest of Mosul, in an area that Iraqi forces recaptured last July.

The killing was a “heinous crime carried out by Daesh terrorist gangs,” Iraqi official Najiha Abdul-Amir al-Shimari told reporters. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

The people killed were “citizens of the friendly Indian state. Their dignity was supposed to be protected, but the forces of evil wanted to defame the principles of Islam,” said Najiha, the head of Iraq’s Martyrs Establishment, a government body dealing with people killed in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The abducted workers had been employed by a construction company operating near Mosul when militants captured wide swaths of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014.

39 Indians killed in Iraq
PUNJAB
  • 01. Dharminder Kumar
  • 02. Harish Kumar
  • 03. Harsimranjeet Singh
  • 04. Kanwaljit Singh
  • 05. Malkit Singh
  • 06. Ranjit Singh
  • 07. Sonu
  • 08. Sandeep Kumar
  • 09. Manjinder Singh
  • 10. Gurcharan Singh
  • 11. Balwant Rai
  • 12. Roop Lal
  • 13. Devinder Singh
  • 14. Kulwinder Singh
  • 15. Jatinder Singh
  • 16. Nishan Singh
  • 17. Gurdeep Singh
  • 18. Kamaljit Singh
  • 19. Gobinder Singh
  • 20. Pritpal Sharma
  • 21. Sukhwinder Singh
  • 22. Jasvir Singh
  • 23. Parvinder Kumar
  • 24. Balvir Chand
  • 25. Surjeet Mainka
  • 26. Nand Lal
  • 27. Rakesh Kumar
HIMACHAL PRADESH
  • 28. Aman Kumar
  • 29. Sandeep Singh Rana
  • 30. Inderjet
  • 31. Hem Raj
WEST BENGAL
  • 32. Samar Tikadar
  • 33. Khokhan Sikder
BIHAR
  • 34. Santosh Kumar Singh
  • 35. Bidya Bhushan Tiwari
  • 36. Adalat Singh
  • 37. Sunil Kumar Kushwaha
  • 38. Dharmendra Kumar
  • 39. Raju Kumar Yadav [yet to be verified]

Relatives said they received panicked phone calls from some of the workers five days after Mosul was captured, asking for help.

Around 10,000 Indians worked and lived in Iraq at that time.

Dozens of mass graves have been discovered in territory once held by the Islamic State group, though Iraq’s government has only been able to examine a handful of them. Iraqi officials say they lack the resources and trained personnel to properly exhume so many sites.

At the height of their power, IS controlled nearly a third of the country.

After Iraq recaptured the area around Mosul, search operations led to a mound of dirt near Badush, where local residents said bodies had been buried by the IS, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in the Rajya Sabha.

Iraqi authorities used radar to verify that the mound was a mass grave, she said, and then exhumed the bodies. Indian authorities then sent DNA samples from relatives of the missing workers.

Forty Indians were captured by the militants, though one man managed to escape. Iraqi authorities said the mass grave held 39 bodies, but only 39 have been positively identified through DNA analysis. Analysis on the last body has not yet been completed, Swaraj said.

“It is indeed a moment of deep grief and sadness for us,” India’s ambassador to Iraq, Pradeep Singh Rajpurohit, told reporters in Baghdad. “India strongly condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations and stands in solidarity with the government and the people of Iraq in their fight against terrorism.”

He said the bodies will be sent back to India “in a couple of weeks or so.”

Harjit Masih, the only Indian survivor, has long said that the rest of the group had been killed. He said they had all been held for a number of days, then taken outside and ordered to kneel. Then the militants opened fire.

“They were killed in front of my eyes,” he told reporters on Tuesday. He was shot in the thigh but managed to escape.

Iraq, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, is also struggling to remove rebuild after more than three years of grueling war against the militants. The fight against IS has cost Iraq more than $1 billion in destroyed infrastructure, officials say.

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 20:13 IST