Iraqi authorities have found the bodies of 38 Indian construction workers abducted when Islamic State militants overran the northern city of Mosul more than three years ago, officials said on Tuesday.
The bodies were buried near the village of Badush, northwest of Mosul, in an area that Iraqi forces recaptured last July.
The killing was a "heinous crime carried out by Daesh terrorist gangs," Iraqi official Najiha Abdul-Amir al-Shimari told reporters. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
The bodies are "citizens of the friendly Indian state. Their dignity was supposed to be protected, but the forces of evil wanted to defame the principles of Islam," said Najiha, the head of Iraq's Martyrs Establishment, a government body dealing with people killed in the fight against the Islamic State group.
The abducted workers, most from northern India, had been employed by a construction company near Mosul when militants captured wide swaths of the area.
Relatives said they received phone calls from some of the workers five days after Mosul was captured, asking for help.
Around 10,000 Indians worked and lived in Iraq at that time. Search operations led to a mound near Badush where local residents said bodies had been buried by the IS, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament.
Iraqi authorities used radar to establish that the mound was a mass grave, she said, and then exhumed the bodies. Indian authorities then sent DNA samples from relatives of the missing workers.
Swaraj said 39 bodies had been found in the grave, but the DNA on one had yet to be fully confirmed.