The bodies were recovered from a mass grave and DNA tests had confirmed them to be those of the construction workers who went missing from the Iraqi city of Mosul, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament.
"I had promised to disclose the matter within less than 24 hours of getting concrete proofs", she said adding that in July past year when the matter had come to light that the 39 Indians are dead, she did not have a concrete proof. "I refused to close the files (of the 39 Indians) till we had concrete proof in hand (about their death)", she said at a press conference.
The external affairs minister said two heads of states in that region had conveyed to India that the 39 Indians were not killed.
The victims, most of whom were from the Indian state of Punjab, were kidnapped in June 2014 when ISIS militants seized control of Mosul. The aircraft, which will carry the mortal remains, will first go to Amritsar where 31 bodies of those from Punjab and four from Himachal Pradesh would be handed over to the relatives. I was not involved in any falsehood. she said, referring to her statements in Parliament in 2014 and 2017.
Indian residents Raj Kumar (L) and Kawaljeet (C) pose with a photograph of their son Dharmendra Kumar, who was among the 39 missing workers held hostage, on May 15, 2015.More news: World Rugby Release Statement On Spain V Belgium Referee Controversy
Detailing what may have happened to the 39 Indians, Swaraj said: "the next day when the ISIS counted the heads, they found out that only 39 Indians were there".
Speaking on Harjit Masih's claims, Sushma said that he is just an individual who can simply claim that 39 others are dead, adding that the Government cannot say so very easily as it has to be responsible. For verification of the bodies, DNA samples of their relatives were sent there. "The bodies were brought to Baghdad for DNA testing". One body was a 70 per cent match, she said.
Relentless search for them led to a mass grave in Badosh, where deep penetration radar was used to establish the presence of bodies below a mound.
On criticism by opposition leaders and some family members of those killed that they got to know about death of their loved ones through television, Swaraj said she followed parliamentary procedures.
"Swaraj had said when the Iraqi prime minister comes to India, the government will confirm it from him, but didn't do anything", he added.
In June'14, 40 Indians were taken hostage outside the Iraqi city of Mosul by the ISIS.