India believes its 39 workers abducted in Iraq still alive despite claim of killings

The Indian government believes 39 workers abducted nearly six months ago by the Islamic State group in Iraq are alive despite claims by one who escaped that the others had been killed.

Efforts are continuing to locate them in the absence of any direct contact with them, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told India's parliament on Friday.

She said the claim by an Indian man who escaped the abductors that the militant group had killed the workers had not been corroborated.

"He is now in the protective custody of the Indian government," Swaraj said of the man, but offered no other details.

She said information from friendly governments and organizations working in the region suggests that the workers had not been killed. They were employed by a Turkish construction company when they were seized in June in the northern city of Mosul.

There are about 10,000 Indian citizens working and living in Iraq, but only a small number are in violent, insecure areas.

The abduction of the Indian workers came soon after the militants overran Mosul and seized wide swathes of Iraqi territory.