Mosul victims were illegal immigrants: VK Singh

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April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018

AMRITSAR, INDIA – APRIL 2: Union Minister Of State For External Affairs General VK Singh (R) (Retd) with Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (L) addressing a press conference.– Getty Images

Amritsar: The Indians who were taken hostage from Mosul city in Iraq by IS militants in June 2014, with 39 of being killed and buried in the Badosh village, had gone there illegally through unlicensed travel agents, and the embassy had no record of them, General VK Singh (retd), minister of state for external affairs, told a press conference on Monday.

The minister was addressing reporters at the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport after bringing back remains of 38 of these Indians from Iraq, about 2.30pm.

"All 40 Indian workers who went to the Mosul city of Iraq had gone there illegally through unlicensed travel agents, and the embassy had no record of them. When you go through illegal agents, then it is difficult to find you," the former army chief said.

Of the 40, Harjit Masih, of Kala Afghana village in Gurdaspur, had escaped. The remains of the 39th, a Bihar resident, could not be brought on Monday as his DNA test had not been completed.

31 FAMILIES HAD ARRIVED AT AMRITSAR

DNA reports were also handed over along with the mortal remains to the kin of 31 victims (27 from Punjab), who had arrived at the airport. "These reports are certified by Iraqi medical authorities, who conducted the DNA test," the minister said.

Samples for this test had been collected from the kin in October. The district administration deployed an officer with each ambulance that carrying the remains under the leadership of Amritsar DC, Kamaldeep Singh Sangha

'PROPER RECORD HELPED US IN RESCUING KERALA NURSES'

"This is something that should, ideally, not be said in this situation, but the fact is that these people went through illegal agents," Singh reiterated, referring to the case of 40 Kerala nurses who the Centre had rescued from the clutches of the Islamic state in 2014. "The nurses could be rescued as we had record of them," he added.

"I want all Indians to go abroad legally. They should go safely and with proper training. On illegal travel agents, the state government is responsible for law and order and they should arrest such agents," he added.

Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was also present at the press conference, said the state government would introduce a bill in the assembly to curb activities of illegal travel agents.

VISITED IRAQ FOUR TIMES

The minister recalled his four visits to Iraq. "I first visited Iraq in July 2017, when we learnt that the Iraqi army had liberated Mosul from the IS. I stayed there for six-seven days to look for the abducted Indians, but had no clue of their whereabouts because the battle had not ended yet," he said.

"I went again, in October. This time, we met the owner of the company in which the Indians worked. We also met their cook. We had also taken the help of local media (TV, radio) to ask the populace if they had information on missing Indians."

"During our search, we repeatedly heard the name of Badosh village. Someone told us that some bodies had been buried near this village. We found the bodies buried in the ground. They were recognised through hair and kara," he said.

"When tests were conducted (on the mortal remains), it was found that some persons were killed by bullets. However, in some cases, it is very difficult to say how they were killed," said the minister.

"We were told that it could be about one year (ago). It is difficult to say whether it is more than a year or less than a year," he added.

'BHARAT WILL GIVE COMPENSATION'

To a query on whether he would announce compensation and a government job to the kin, he said, "It (giving compensation) is not a game of football or distribution of biscuits."

"Both the state and the union governments are sensitive to the issue. During a meeting in New Delhi, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asked families of victims to give details of a member who can be given government compensation. We will review," he added.

To a question on who is responsible for giving compensation to families, the minister said, 'Bharat'.


Courtesy/Source: HT

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