40 Indian labourers, most of them from Punjab, had been taken hostage when they were trying to flee Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – which had been overrun by ISIS terrorists. One of those captured, Harjit Masih from Punjab’s Gurdaspur, had managed to escape by posing as a Muslim, Ms Swaraj said.
The remaining 39 captives were then taken to Badush, and shot dead.
Search operations led to a mound in Badush where locals said some bodies were buried by ISIS. To determine whether the mound was indeed a mass grave, deep penetration radars were used, Ms Swaraj said.
The mound had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then exhumed and sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.
“We recovered ID cards, long hair, kada and some non-Iraqi footwear,” Ms Swaraj said.
DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70 per cent matching of the DNA for the 39th person.
Ms Swaraj had informed parliament in December last year that India had completed the DNA testing of the families of the 39 missing Indians and sent them to Iraq for matching with bodies in graves there.
“It was a most difficult task to get the proof. It was a pile of bodies. To track down the bodies of our people and to take them to Baghdad for DNA tests was a huge task,” she added, commending her junior, Minister of State VK Singh, for supervising the challenging job.
VK Singh will be flying to Iraq to bring back the bodies on a special flight. “The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata,” Ms Swaraj said.
“Howsoever painful, the families will get the dead bodies after over three years. This will hopefully bring some closure to the grieving families,” she added.
With inputs from agencies