External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday told Rajya Sabha that 39 Indians, who were kidnapped by the Islamic State in Iraq's Mosul more than three years ago, have died.
Swaraj said that the dreaded terror organisation had killed all the Indian nationals.
As many as 40 Indians were originally abducted by terrorist organisation the ISIS in June 2015 from Mosul in Iraq but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a suo motu statement in Rajya Sabha. The remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed.
Search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS. Deep penetration radars were used to establish that the mound indeed was a mass grave, she said, adding the Indian authorities requested their Iraqi counterpart to exhume the bodies.
Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then sent to Baghdad for DNA testing.
In July last year, Swaraj had said in the Parliament that she would not declare the 39 Indians dead without concrete proof or evidence.
"It is a sin to declare a person dead without concrete evidence. I will not do this sin," Swaraj said in a statement in the Lok Sabha in 2017.
"Yesterday we got information that DNA samples of 38 people have matched and DNA of the 39th person has matched 70%," said Swaraj on Tuesday.
She added that General VK Singh will go to Iraq to bring back mortal remains of Indians killed in Iraq. The plane carrying mortal remains will first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata.
Last year, the government had said it was is collecting DNA samples from the kin of 39 Indians at the suggestion of some parliamentarians and Iraqi authorities as part of a fresh effort to determine their fate.
A letter sent by the external affairs ministry to officials in Punjab, the state to which most of the missing men belonged, said the samples are needed urgently as a team visited Iraq on October 23.
Hindustan Times had reported that after numerous mass graves were found in areas of Iraq liberated from the ISIS, some MPs and politicians had urged external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to ensure that DNA samples were collected from the relatives of those men to help in the search.
Union minister VK Singh also had travelled to Erbil and Mosul in Iraq to locate the 39 Indian nationals.
(With agency inputs)