'With Full Proof I Can Say These 39 Are Dead'

Indian construction workers kidnapped by ISIS in 2014 found in mass grave
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2018 10:19 AM CDT
He Insisted His Co-Workers Were Dead. DNA Now Proves It
A man displays photographs of his younger brother, whose body was found buried northwest of Mosul.   (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

In the days after Mosul fell to ISIS, 40 Indian construction workers who'd been on assignment on the Mosul University campus were kidnapped. Only one, Harjit Masih, managed to survive after what he says were four days in captivity in June 2014. He was shot in the thigh; the rest, he says, got bullets, mostly to the head. NPR reports the Indian government had for years countered that, maintaining some could still be alive. Proof to the contrary has now come: The AP reports that a dirt mound outside the village of Badush that had been a rumored mass grave used by ISIS has turned out to be so. Iraqi authorities began excavating there in the summer after radar indicated there were human remains within, and they unearthed not just those remains.

They also found ID cards, what NPR calls "non-Iraqi shoes," and karas, the silver bracelets Sikhs wear. DNA analysis has now led to 38 positive identifications, with the last one pending. "With full proof I can say these 39 are dead," Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, said Tuesday. Iraq's forensic director says the men were indeed shot, and that the condition of their remains indicated they'd been buried for a long period, though he didn't offer a date. India's ambassador to Iraq says the bodies will be returned home in the coming weeks. The Guardian notes Swaraj caught flak over the government's delay in declaring the men dead. Her defense: "It would have been a sin had we handed over anybody's body claiming it to be those of our people, just for the sake of closing files." (More Iraq stories.)

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