The Indian government on Friday denied reports that 39 Indian nationals being held hostage by the Islamic State group have been executed. The Indians, most of whom worked for construction companies in Iraq, have been missing since June, according to media reports.
“We have information from six different sources that the 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq in June have not been killed,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, reportedly told the country’s parliament on Friday. “It is my responsibility to continue with the search on the basis of statements of these six sources.”
Swaraj’s statements were made in response to a report by ABP News, a local Indian news network, which claimed that 39 of the 40 Indian workers in ISIS’ captivity had been killed by the militant group near the city of Mosul in June. The network based its report on interviews with two Bangladeshi nationals, identified as Shafi and Hassan, who claimed that they had spoken to the only surviving Indian captive named Harjeet Bassi.
Although Bassi allegedly claimed that he had witnessed the executions of his Indian co-workers, Swaraj reportedly said that his claims did not corroborate the information obtained by the government.
“There are contradictions in the story Bassi told ... it is logical not to accept the statement,” Swaraj reportedly said, adding that the government has oral as well as written confirmation from intelligence sources on the ground that the captives are alive.
An unnamed intelligence official also told The Times of India, a local news daily, that Indian agencies were not aware of any change in the status of the captives. “It is possible that they have been moved elsewhere. ISIS is a country now, and they could easily move the laborers to other locations,” he reportedly said.
The Islamic State group, which, during its offensive in Iraq and Syria, has abducted a number of foreign nationals, is believed to have earned nearly $45 million in ransom over the last one year. This money, combined with daily revenues of $1 million through the sale of crude oil, has reportedly made ISIS the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization.