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'I told the truth, but govt mislead families', says man who escaped from ISIS' captivity

By Vikas
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    Harjit Masih, the only Indian to escape from the ISIS' captivity in Iraq, on Tuesday squarely blamed the government of 'misleading' the families 39 persons who were killed in Mosul. Masih had earlier claimed that he was shot in the leg but managed to flee. However, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj dismissed his claims during her statement in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

    Harjit Masih, the only Indian to escape from the ISIS captivity in Iraq

    Swaraj maintained that Masih had escaped by faking his identity, adding that she had concrete evidence that he was lying.

    "I told the truth that 39 Indians were killed. The government has misled the 39 families who lost their relatives," ANI quoted Masih as saying.

    The group of 40 men, most of them construction workers, were abducted from war-ravaged Mosul, the northern Iraqi city which was once a stronghold of Islamic State. Harjit Masih, the only Indian to escape the abductors, had claimed that the others in the group were gunned down on June 15, 2014.

    [39 Indians killed in Iraq: VK Singh hits back at opposition, says 'no one was misled']

    Reports had then emerged that Masih was able to escape after claiming that he was a Bangladeshi Muslim. Upon his return, Masih had claimed that all the Indians were killed. A native of a village near Punjab's Batala, Masih claimed he had been abducted with the rest of 39 people by ISIS. He further claimed that he saw all of them being shot dead by the abductors and that he was able to escape unhurt.

    Swaraj said 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.

    [39 abducted Indians in Iraq may have been killed by ISIS in 2014 itself]

    In July last year, Swaraj had told Parliament that there was no evidence to state that they were killed by the Islamic terrorists, adding that she would not commit the sin of declaring them dead. In July 2017, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had said that there was no "substantial evidence" on whether the Indians were alive or dead.

    Discrepencies between what Masih has been saying and what Swaraj said:

    Masih had claimed that he showed along with the other Indians, but the bullet hit his leg. He had said that ISIS terrorists had made all of them kneel down and fired at them. Masih said he was shot in his right thigh and fell unconscious covered with bodies. Next day, he regained consciousness and fled the scene.

    Swaraj has however said that Masih's story was fake and he had escaped ISIS capture for acquiring a fake Muslim name 'Ali.' She said that he had also claimed to be a Bangladeshi.

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