After almost four years, External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj confirmed that the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State are dead. She said that the confirmation came after the DNA samples of 38 persons had matched. In the case of the 39th India, the sample was a 70 per cent match, she also said in the Rajya Sabha.
The abduction of the Indians took place in 2014 when the Islamic State was at its peak and overran Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. As the fighting broke out, the workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were intercepted and taken hostage.
There have been many flip-flops in this case since the news broke out in 2014. The first time that the news about the death of the workers came out was when Harjit Masih one of the workers who managed to escape spoke out. He said while he had managed to escape, he had witnessed the massacre of his colleagues. This claim was however rejected by the government. Going by Masih's version it became clear that all of them had died in 2014 itself.
The government, however, rejected the claim. Top government sources said that the claim had been rejected at that time since there was no proof of their death. We had to do a lot of groundwork before we could confirm the news, the source also said.
Since 2014 there has been a lot of behind the scenes work that has taken place. The Intelligence Agencies of both India and Iraq and coordinated with each other. The information flow was steady, but there was nothing concrete.
The most recent information had even suggested that the hostages could have been lodged in the Badush prison. Sushma Swaraj said that her junior minister in the MEA, General V K Singh had learnt from sources that the construction workers from Punjab may have been lodged in this jail which lies in the north-west of Mosul.
While this claim was made in July 2017, it was later found that the prison had been reduced to rubble in the fighting. Moreover, it was also found that the jail had vanished a few months before July. Following this, the foreign minister of Iraq, Al-Eshaiker Al-Jafari had said that he was not sure if all of them were alive or not. He also said that we consider them to be alive as there is no proof that they were in Badush. Hence they are being considered alive, he had also said.
In the meantime, the Government had India had dispatched several of its officers to Iraq to gather information about the 39 Indians. Former ambassador Suresh Reddy too visited Iraq to work his sources and gather information.