Sushma Swaraj, the Minister of External Affairs of India has confirmed that the 39 Indians who had been abducted by ISIS in 2014 are dead. The victims had been captured by the terror organization in Mosul, Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also known as ISIL and ISIS that is considered a Salafi jihadist militant group and unrecognized proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam. It gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre.
This group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is widely known for its videos of beheadings of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, and its destruction of cultural heritage sites. The United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses & war crimes and Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a "historic scale" in northern Iraq.
In 2014, around 40 Indians had been abducted by ISIS from Mosul in Iraq. Out of these 40 Indians, one of them was able to escape. This man pretended to be a Muslim from Bangladesh in order to be set free. A few of those who had been abducted had been able to get access to mobile phones and contacted their homes in the process. However, the abductors never issued any public demands. Nor did anyone claim to be holding the 39 Indians hostage.
Sushma Swaraj, the current Minister of External Affairs of India through a sou motu statement revealed that the 39 Indians who had been abducted have been killed. She notified the Rajya Sabha and noted that the Indian government worked to ensure closure to the families of the victims.
She stated, “With full proof I can say these 39 are dead. We wanted to give the families closure only after concrete proof. We used a deep penetration satellite... It had exactly 39 bodies with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs.” She also provided details on the technology that was used to identify the victims. “We collected DNA samples from India sent them to Iraq... The tests were conducted in Baghdad. The samples were matching in 38 cases. 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 also commended her junior, Minister of State VK Singh, for supervising the challenging job.
She also noted that the government had done everything to find the Indians that got abducted. "We reached out to every diplomatic channel that could have helped us in getting any clue to the location or the state of the missing Indians," Swaraj said. She also said that the government could not have declared the missing Indians dead in haste. "There are some governments that believe in the concept of 'missing believed to be dead', but we were stern that I won't close their files until and unless I get concrete proofs,” she added.
"For four years, the minister had told me that they were alive, I don't know what to believe anymore," said Gurpinder Kaur, sister of Manjinder Singh, one of the men killed in Iraq. Harjit Masih, was the only man who had been able to escape from ISIS and has been detained and interviewed by Indian officials’ multiple times since the incident. However, he hadn’t been able to provide a clear idea on the fate of those who had been abducted.
Our assessment is that the latest developments indicate how dangerous it is for Indians to work in war zones such as Iraq and Yemen. In 2017, an Indian Catholic Priest called Father Tom Uzhunnalil was released after being kidnapped by ISIS for a period of 18 months. He had been abducted in Yemen.