MEA collects DNA samples of kin of 39 men missing in Iraq

AMRITSAR: The ministry of external affairs has started collecting DNA samples of relatives of the 39 Indian men who have been missing in Iraq since June 2014. This has triggered both hope and apprehension in the relatives who feel that the central government finally has some information about the missing men but does not want to reveal anything till it receives more information.

Top government sources in Delhi though said the DNA samples were being collected as a “matter of routine procedure”. A senior official said that foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier written to the chief ministers of four states, including Punjab, saying that as a matter of normal practice the government needed to provide the samples to the Iraqi government. Iraq has been in touch with the Indian government over the issue and had conveyed earlier that it needed the samples for its own investigations into the case of the missing Indians. According to Indian officials, this does not in any way conclusively prove that the 39 Indian nationals are either dead or alive.

Some 40 Indian youth, mostly Punjabis, who worked in a construction company in Mosul, were reportedly kidnapped by Islamic State terrorists on June 11, 2014. One of the abducted men, Harjit Masih, who returned to Punjab, claimed that he dodged militants and managed to flee from captivity. Since then, however, the whereabouts of the rest 39 are not known.

There have been numerous reports about the fate of these men with some reports suggesting that they were killed by IS terrorists in Mosul while others suggested that they were in the Badush jail near Mosul which is now in ruins. External affairs minister had told Parliament in July that she would not declare the 39 men dead until there was concrete evidence.

Sources told that with US-backed Syrian forces taking over the IS capital of Raqqa in Syria, there are reports of a large number of mass graves being discovered in territories that the terror group controlled. The DNA samples would help in confirming if any of the Indian victims were in these graves.

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