Harjit Masih was lying, says Sushma Swaraj on his story of escape from Islamic State in Iraq
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Harjit Masih was lying, says Sushma Swaraj on his story of escape from Islamic State in Iraq

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj says Masih used a fake name, merged with a Bangladeshi group to escape from IS captivity. The worker from Punjab had earlier claimed he was shot in the leg but walked for days to his freedom.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 19:43 IST
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kala Afghana (Batala)
Sushma Swaraj‬,‪Iraq‬,‪Minister of External Affairs of India
Harjit Masih had said in 2017 that 39 Indians were attacked by IS terrorists and killed. (ANI file photo)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj dismissed as a lie on Tuesday a claim by the lone Indian worker who escaped from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)that the remaining 39 captives had been shot dead days after being taken hostage.

“He was not willing to tell me how he escaped,” Swaraj said in the Rajya Sabha, adding she had concrete evidence that Harjit Masih had lied.

“Masih had escaped along with Bangladeshis with the help of a caterer using a fake name, Ali. The details were revealed to me by Masih’s employer and the caterer who helped him,” said the minister, who told the House that the government had received confirmation that the 39 captives had died .

According to Masih, 40 Indians including him who had been taken captive by the ISIS on June 15, 2014 were taken to a hilltop and shot. He said he was hit in the leg and survived by feigning death.

Masih stood his ground on Tuesday. He told news agency ANI: “I told the truth that 39 Indians were killed. The government has misled the 39 families who lost their relatives.”

The only bread earner in a family of four, Masih is a resident of the village of Kala Afghana in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.

Narrating his tale in 2017, Masih said, “Everything was fine till May of 2014. We enjoyed our work at a factory, though some incidents of firing by IS militants happened in the outer parts of Mosul. But a month later, they entered the factory and kidnapped all of us.”

“We were shifted to a place I could not identify,” he told HT then. “On that fateful day, they forced us to sit on our knees, in a row, and opened fire. I received a shot in my right leg and was covered with bodies. I fell unconscious. Next day, when I regained consciousness, I found all my fellow workers dead.”

“After a few days of walking, I managed to reach a Bangladeshi relief camp and was rushed to hospital. A week later, I returned to India.”

Masih’s claim that had witnessed his Indian co-workers being killed was then dismissed by the central government, which said it was treating them as ‘missing’.

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 12:09 IST