NEW DELHI, March 20 - All the 39 Indians abducted by the ISIS terror outfit in Mosul in Iraq three years ago are dead and their bodies have been recovered, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today.
While it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed, their bodies were recovered from Badosh � a village in northwest of Mosul, and their identities established through DNA testing, she said making a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha.
The mortal remains, which were exhumed from a mass grave in Badosh, will be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their relatives, she said.
�I had said that I will not declare anyone dead without substantive proof... Today I have come to fulfil that commitment,� she said.
�I had said that closure will be done with full proof. And when we will, with a heavy heart, give the mortal remains to their kin, it will be a kind of closure.�
A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, and some Bangladeshi were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq�s second largest city Mosul in 2014.
Of the 40 Indians, one Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur had managed to escape and had claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government rejected it.
�His was a cock-and-bull story,� Swaraj said adding he had managed to flee the ISIS by faking his identity as a Muslim from Bangladesh.
The Indians were first kept at a textile factory in Mosul and after Masih escaped, they were moved to a prison in Badosh.
Relentless search for them led to a mass grave in Badosh, where deep penetration radar was used to establish the presence of bodies below a mound. The bodies, which were exhumed with help from Iraqi authorities, had distinctive features like long hair, �kada�, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs.
The bodies were sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.
The government was told yesterday that the DNA of 38 Indians matched with the remains of bodies found. One body was a 70 per cent match, she said.
Swaraj said she has previously maintained that the abducted Indians would not be declared dead without substantive proof.
Now, there is proof, she said.
Giving details, she said when ISIS overan Mosul, most Iraqis left the city but Indian and Bangladeshi workers stayed back.
Inquiries from a caterer revealed that the ISIS caught them when they were coming back after meals. They were first taken to a textile factory where Bangladeshi workers were separated and sent to the city of Erbil. � PTI