In a flip-flop, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said here on Monday that the 39 Indians missing in the city of Mosul since 2014 are considered alive, after having said earlier in the day his government was not 100 per cent sure about this.
"We are trying to follow news gained through intelligence sources, and we consider that all the Indians are alive," al-Jafaari told the media here late Monday.
He also said that the Iraqi government had financial incentives for people who could help locate those 39 Indians.
He said that the IS was known for spreading fake news and that the Iraqi government checked such information from its own sources while expressing hope that the 39 Indians were alive.
Earlier in the day, following a meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, al-Jafaari said: "I am not 100 per cent sure if the 39 Indians missing in Mosul are alive. We are trying our best (to trace them)."
Most of the 39 Indian construction workers who went missing in 2014 are from Punjab.
Al-Jaafari's comments came after Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh visited Iraq after Iraqi forces aided by an international coalition liberated Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organisation on July 9.
Sushma Swaraj had earlier said that with the freeing of Mosul, the process to trace and rescue the missing Indians would be taken forward.
She said they had information that the Indians were in a jail in Badush, which lies in ruins now.
Singh was earlier sent to Erbil in Iraq to pursue the case of the missing Indians.
On July 12, Singh visited the Kurdish Peshmarga frontline in Mosul area to seek information about the Indians. He said some IS-held areas were still being cleared.
Sushma Swaraj has met the families of the 39 persons around a dozen times since they were abducted in June 2014 and assured them that the government was doing everything to locate them.
Iraqi forces liberated Mosul after 266 days of fierce battles, ending three years of IS rule.