NEW DELHI: Congress president Rahul Gandhi today expressed shock and his deepest condolences at the death of 39 Indians in captivity in Iraq.
His party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, added that it was not just a tragedy for the families but for the entire country.
"I'm shocked to hear that 39 Indians who were in captivity since 2014, in Iraq, are now confirmed dead.
"My deepest condolences to the families of those who have lived in hope, that their loved ones will return unharmed. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you today," Gandhi said on Twitter.
Adding that the entire country was sad, Azad said the Ministry of External Affairs had forcefully asserted in Parliament last year that they are alive but was now saying they are dead.
I’m shocked to hear that 39 Indians who were in captivity since 2014, in Iraq, are now confirmed dead.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 20, 2018
My deepest condolences to the families of those who have lived in hope, that their loved ones will return unharmed. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you today.
A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq's second largest city Mosul in 2014.
One of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha.
The other 39 are dead and their bodies have been recovered, she said.
While it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed, their bodies were recovered from Badosh, a village northwest of Mosul, and their identities established through DNA testing, she said.
The mortal remains, which were exhumed from a mass grave in Badosh, will be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their relatives, she said.
"I had said that I will not declare anyone dead without substantive proof today I have come to fulfil that commitment," she said.