New Delhi: With no news of the 39 Indians missing in Iraq since 2014 and the worst feared for their well-being, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday told Parliament that the government would continue its search for the missing till it received concrete proof of their death.

Swaraj’s comments follow her meeting earlier this week with visiting Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jafari in New Delhi. The 39 Indians—mostly labourers from Punjab—went missing when the hardline Sunni Islamic State (IS) terrorist outfit abducted the group from Mosul three years ago.

With Mosul liberated from IS clutches by Iraqi troops earlier this month, there was no sign of the 39 Indians in the city. The Indian government had later said that the abducted Indians could be in Badush, some 25km away. But a report in the Hindustan Times on Saturday said the Badush prison was in ruins and that there was no sign of the group there.

On Wednesday, in a statement to the Lok Sabha, Swaraj said the government will continue its efforts to trace the missing till it gets specific evidence that they were dead.

Listing several instances of people missing in war being declared dead by previous governments only to be confronted with evidence of their being alive later on, Swaraj said: “This file (on the missing in Iraq) will not close till there is proof that the 39 Indians are dead. I will not commit the sin of declaring them dead without any evidence."

Swaraj refuted the opposition’s charge that she had misled Parliament or the families of the abducted Indians. “I have never misled anyone. I want to ask the opposition what benefit will I get by misleading (them on this subject). What benefit will my government get by misleading people on the issue," she asked.

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