The mystery behind 39 missing Indians - kidnapped by ISIS in Mosul three years ago - deepened as Iraq claimed that it is not 100 per cent sure whether they are dead or alive.
Ibrahim al-Jafri, Iraqi Foreign Minister, who is on a five-day visit to India, told reporters in New Delhi, “We don't know whether they are dead or alive. We are equally concerned. We're not sure 100 per cent they're alive or not, we don't know, we are going to do our best.”
The missing Indians comprising a group of labourers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq's second largest city Mosul in 2014. The workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were intercepted.
The Indian government has said all efforts are on to find the Indians and without information otherwise, the workers are still considered alive. Days after Mosul's liberation from ISIS was announced, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh was sent to Iraq.
Meanwhile, Congress has accused Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj of “misleading the nation, parliament and families" of the kidnapped Indians and said it may file a privilege motion.
The Indian Foreign Minister had told the families of the workers that an Iraqi official, quoting intelligence sources, had told Singh they were made to work at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were put in a jail in Badush.
Partap Singh Bajwa, a legislator of the party, referred to media reports that the jail that Swaraj referred to was in ruins and charged, “She has lost all credibility”.
One of the captured Indians, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur, had managed to escape and had claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government has rejected it.
More than 10,000 Indians fled Iraq amid the upsurge in violence in 2014, including dozens of nurses who were held briefly by suspected ISIS terrorists in Tikrit and Mosul before being allowed to return home.