Iraq survivor claims Islamic State militants killed 39 Indian hostages, govt says they're alive
A man from Punjab, who escaped from the clutches of the Islamic State (IS) in June 2014, claimed on Thursday that 39 Indians who were taken hostage by the terror outfit have been killed. However, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in New Delhi that she did not believe the claims, and her own sources felt that the Indian nationals were still alive.Updated: May 15, 2015 11:45 IST
Harjit Masih, a resident of Gurdaspur in Punjab, claimed to have survived an alleged cold-blooded shootout of 40 Indian hostages by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq in June last year.
He said on Thursday the remaining 39 would have perished in the shootout, though external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said she did not believe the claim.
Masih, 25, who claims that he was brought back to India by the government a week after he survived the “attack”, said he was only “released” by the GOI a fortnight ago. “I was told to stay away from my village. I was told that I was under threat by the IS as I had survived their attack,” he told media.
Masih was brought before the press by AAP MP Bhagwant Mann who alleged that if Masih is to be believed then the government has been giving “false” hopes to the families of the missing people.
“External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj says the boys are safe and the government is trying to get them back... Can she at least make these boys talk to their families over the phone so that it assures them?”
The families of the other kidnapped Punjab boys had earlier reported they were picked up from their construction site in Mosul on June 11 and kept in a thread factory. On June 15, all the families lost contact with the youths.
Recounting the events of June last year, Masih who worked with a construction company, said he was kidnapped by IS along with other Indians and Bangladeshis.
“Our company men had run away two days before this happened. They were at least fifty kidnappers. Their faces were covered and were armed. They asked us to give them our passports. We were taken to a place at an hour’s drive from Mosul and kept in a basement. The next day we were shifted to an abandoned thread factory where we contacted our families and told them not to worry as the kidnappers told us we would be released soon,” said Masih.
“After 3-4 days the Bangladeshis were segregated from us and we were taken to a semi-hilly area. I saw several dead bodies there. We were asked to hand over our mobile phones and money and sit down. Then the kidnappers started firing at us. A bullet grazed my leg but I was alive.”
“I got up after they left and stopped a taxi and asked to be taken to the airport. Another taxi took me to a check post captured by the IS. I told the IS that I was a Bangladeshi and had lost my passport. They allowed me to go further. I was sent back to my company... I borrowed someone’s phone and called the Indian embassy number.”
Masih said he was picked up by the embassy people and was brought back to India. “I stayed in Gurgaon for some months after which I was sent to Bengaluru for electrical repair training. I was told I would be given a job. I stayed in Greater Noida for a few months. My family knew I was safe but it was to be kept under wraps because I was told the IS threat was still there,” he said.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, however, disputed Masih's claims.
"We are not sparing any efforts to find them. We are hopeful that we will be able to find them and bring them back home. I have eight different sources who say that they are alive," Swaraj told the media after families of the hostages met her in New Delhi on Thursday.
First Published: May 14, 2015 21:02 IST