Iraqi and Indian officials say the bodies were found buried in mass graves near the village of Badush, northwest of Mosul. New Delhi had maintained for years that it believed the Indian workers were alive and it was trying to secure their release.
Iraqi authorities confirmed on Tuesday that the bodies found in a mass grave last year were Indian construction workers that were abducted when Daesh militants overran the northern city of Mosul in 2014.
The bodies were found buried near the village of Badush, northwest of Mosul, in an area that Iraqi forces recaptured last July.
Najiha Abdul Amir al Shimari, Head of Iraq's Martyrs Establishment, confirmed that of the 39 bodies found, 38 were identified as Indians.
"The Department of Mass Graves found a mass grave in Wadi Ekab for 39 bodies. Only 38 bodies were identified as Indians," Al Shimari said.
Analysis on the last body has not yet been completed.
TRT World's Neha Poonia has more from New Delhi.
After Iraq recaptured the area around Mosul, search operations led to a mound of dirt near Badush, where local residents said bodies had been buried by Daesh group, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in the parliament on Tuesday.
"With full proof I can say these 39 are dead," the minister said, adding, "We recovered ID cards, long hair, kada and some non-Iraqi footwear." A kada is a bracelet worn by Sikh men, who do not cut their hair.
In 2014, Daesh released almost 50 Indian nurses who remained in the militants' captivity for 23 days.
About 10,000 Indians worked in Iraq when Daesh militants seized key areas in northern Iraq.
Our heartfelt tributes to the 39 Indians killed in Iraq and deepest condolences to their families. Modi Govt was insensitive and inhuman to have repeatedly raised the hopes of these families, only to dash them later. Why is the Govt now evading crucial questions on the tragedy?— Congress (@INCIndia) March 20, 2018
Radar used to verify mass graves
The abducted workers' relatives said they received panicked phone calls from some of the workers five days after Mosul was captured, asking for help.
Iraqi authorities used radar to verify the mass grave and then exhumed the bodies.
Indian authorities then sent DNA samples from relatives of the missing workers.
At least three different mass graves were found in the area, which Iraqi forces recaptured in July.
Forty Indians were captured by the militants, though one man managed to escape.
Harjit Masih, the only Indian survivor, has long said that the rest of the group had been killed. He said they had all been held for a number of days, then taken outside and ordered to kneel. Then the militants opened fire.
"They were killed in front of my eyes," he told reporters on Tuesday in his north Indian home village. He was shot in the thigh but managed to escape.
The government had maintained for years that it believed the men were alive and it was trying to secure their release.
In New Delhi, the govt officials would tell us that that these 39 people are alive and that they had got this information from the Iraq Red Crescent.while in Baghdad, d chief of Iraq Red Crescent told me in an interview that his organisation had no in4mtion abt these Indians.— Suhail Bukhari (@Suhail_Bukhari) March 20, 2018
I told the truth that 39 Indians were killed. The government has misled the 39 families who lost their relatives: Harjit Masih, man who returned from Mosul earlier, claimed that 39 Indians were killed by ISIS there. pic.twitter.com/Fvz74egOCz— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018
Opposition and families slam Indian government
Opposition leaders and families of the men said the government had kept them in the dark.
"Why did the govt give false hope to the nation for three and a half years that the people were still alive? That was disappointing behaviour," Shashi Tharoor, a leader of the opposition Congress party, said in a tweet.
Swaran Singh, the brother of one of those killed, slammed the government for not informing the families first.
"The minister (Sushma Swaraj) should have called us before exploding the bomb on us," he said.