The bodies of 38 Indian construction workers kidnapped and murdered in Iraq by the Islamic State group returned home on Monday four years after their disappearance.
Grieving families — who were told for years by government officials that their loved ones were still alive — waited at an airport in the northwest state of Punjab to receive the coffins from Baghdad.
The victims were mostly from poor families in Punjab and were employed by a construction company in Mosul when they were abducted by extremists.
India’s foreign minister told parliament last month that 39 bodies were unearthed from a mass grave in Badush, a village northwest of Mosul.
DNA testing confirmed the identity of 38 of the corpses. One test was a partial match, with further examination needed, India’s junior foreign minister said Monday.
The Indians were kidnapped in June 2014 as the Islamic State group overran large swathes of territory in Iraq, including the major northern city of Mosul.
Indian officials for years insisted the abductees were alive until proven otherwise, drawing criticism from relatives who accused the government of keeping them in the dark.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj denied the government had given the families false hope. It is not known when the Indians were killed.