Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said the 39 Indians who went missing in Iraq in 2014 have been killed. “Deep penetration radar confirmed that all Indians were dead after the bodies were exhumed and DNA analysis was completed for all 39 bodies,” Swaraj told Rajya Sabha.

In June 2014, it was reported that Islamic State militants had abducted 40 Indian labourers from a construction site near Mosul. Most of the victims were from low-income families in Punjab. One youth, identified as Harjit Masih, had managed to return to India.

Swaraj on Tuesday said 31 of those killed were from Punjab and four from Himachal Pradesh, reported the Hindustan Times. “Four state governments of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar were involved,” she added.

She said the bodies were sent to Baghdad. For verification, DNA samples of relatives were sent. Swaraj said the DNA samples of 38 people have matched while that of the 39th person has matched 70% with a family member’s.

The minister thanked Iraq for its help. “It was too difficult to search our people in Iraq,” she said. “Thanks to [Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs] VK Singh for his support and Iraq for the help. Singh will now go to Iraq to bring back the bodies.”

Rajya Sabha members observed two minutes of silence as a mark of respect to the 39 Indians killed. The Upper House has been adjourned till Wednesday.

Earlier, the Centre had refused to declare the missing people dead until they found concrete evidence. In July, Swaraj had told Parliament that “it was a sin to assume someone was dead without proof”. On Tuesday, she said, “We wanted to give the families closure only after getting solid proof.”