Chandigarh, Mar 20 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to provide ex gratia and all necessary assistance to the families of the 39 Indians killed in ISIS captivity in Iraq, in performing the last rites.

The chief minister, who wrote to Swaraj on the issue, also spoke to her over phone requesting her to ensure that no stone is left unturned by the central government in ensuring that the mortal remains of the deceased are brought back to India for last rites.

The external affairs minister assured Singh that the Indian government was making arrangements to bring back the mortal remains of the deceased, which were exhumed from a mass grave in Badush — a village northwest of Mosul in Iraq.

The chief minister told her that the Punjab government would make arrangements for the coffins to be delivered to the families of the victims and asserted that he has already directed the state government officials to personally visit the bereaved families.

The 39 Indians abducted in Iraq in 2014 were killed by Islamic State terrorists and buried in a mass grave, the government told Parliament today.

As many as 40 Indians were abducted by terrorist organisation ISIS in June 2014 from Mosul in Iraq but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.

In the letter to Swaraj, Singh pointed out that 24 of the deceased hailed from Punjab.

While the state government had been providing a monthly assistance of Rs 20,000 to the family members of the victims, the chief minister said that he would be grateful if the Centre could also give them due assistance.

Expressing grief over the news of the deaths of the 39 Indians, Singh said it has come as a shock to the families and to everyone else in Punjab, as they had been hoping and praying for the well-being of the hostages.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister told mediapersons outside the Punjab Assembly that the deaths of the 39 hostages should have been announced by the Centre earlier.

“This(the deaths) was known much earlier,” he said.

“Shattered at the heart-wrenching news from @SushmaSwaraj that the 39 Indians missing in Iraq, most of whom were Punjabis, are dead. My heart goes out to the families who had been living in hope since their reported abduction by ISIS in 2014. Prayers with all of them,” Singh said on Twitter.

On the opening day of the Punjab Assembly’s budget session, the chief minister said the names of the 39 Indians, abducted by ISIS in 2014, should be included for obituary references.

The House then paid its homage to the deceased victims as part of the obituary references.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.