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‘They are dead’: Amid hope for 39 Indians in Iraq, survivor sticks to story

Of the 39 men, at least 22 belong to Punjab and had gone to Iraq as factory workers.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2017 20:48 IST
Vishal Sally
Vishal Sally
Hindustan Times, Kala Afghana (Batala)
Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq on July 10.(Reuters Photo)

Even as hope returned to families of the 39 abducted Indians after terror group Islamic State (IS) was ousted from stronghold Mosul by government forces in war-torn Iraq, the lone returning survivor has stuck to his claim that they are dead.

Harjit Masih, 30, who said he feigned death after being shot in the leg by IS men, had returned in 2014. “The entire incident of IS terrorists shooting the men happened in front of me,” he said on Wednesday in his village in Gurdaspur district, saying he wonders why Indian government “is not accepting the reality”. He added, “I still pray that what I saw is proved wrong and Indian officials who have gone to Mosul bring them back, alive.”

Of the 39 men, at least 22 belong to Punjab and had gone to Iraq as factory workers.

Masih said, “If the government says that all Indians are safe, why has it not found any of them in these three years. Moreover, what will the government get by not telling the truth? Ultimately, some day or the other, the truth will come out.”

Harjit Masih. ( HT Photo )

Again narrating his tale, 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 the city. But, a month later, they entered the factory and kidnapped all of us.”

He said they were shifted to a place he could not identify. “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. Next day, when I regained consciousness, I found all my fellow workers dead.”

“After a few days, I managed to reach a Bangladeshi relief camp and was rushed to hospital. A week later, I returned to India after which intelligence agencies kept shifting me from one city to another. I was made to stay in Delhi, Gurgaon and Greater Noida, before finally being sent back to my village,” he claimed.

He also alleged that he was promised a government job for keeping mum. “But, as I opened by mouth, I was implicated in a fake case and sent to jail for six months. My father died during this period. Even now, intelligence agencies visit me regularly,” he further said.

Meanwhile, families of the 39 men are in regular touch with the Union government, which had sent minister of state for external affairs Gen VK Singh (retd) and other officials to Iraq to trace the men.

First Published: Jul 12, 2017 20:45 IST