Chandigarh: On Friday, four days after they were killed in Abu Dhabi, in a suspected drone attack carried out by the Houthis, an Iran-backed militia group in Yemen, the families of Hardev Singh (35) and Hardeep Singh (28), clung on to their memories as they received the bodies at Amritsar airport and carried them back to their villages in Punjab.
One was a newlywed 28-year-old who planned to join his bride in Canada soon. The other was a 35-year-old who had finally found a "secure employment" in which he could bring his younger brother.
At Mehsampur village, nearly 35 km from Amritsar, Hardeep's wife Kanupriya Kaur, who arrived from Canada on Thursday, was inconsolable as she received his body. Family members said the couple had barely been married nine months and that Hardeep was to soon leave for Canada.
"Hardeep had to go to the UAE when he got a driver's job at the oil company. But he always wanted to go to Canada or Europe… He got married to a girl who had cleared her IELTS and was studying in Canada. Everything was on track… he was so happy," said Rajbir Singh, a relative. "Hardeep was to have returned to India on January 19. His father died about two and half years ago and he was planning to start a new life in Canada with his wife and mother, but fate had other plans," he added.
At Bagha Purana village in Moga district, Hardev Singh's brother Sukhdev said they are still in the dark about what happened in Abu Dhabi. "We haven't got any information yet from the company," said Sukhdev, who lived with his brother in Abu Dhabi.
"Hardev was 18 years old when he first went there. He changed several jobs because they were not safe. When he got the job at the oil company, he said things were finally getting better. Earlier we would be worried for him because the Middle East was always at war. But the situation has been better over the last few years. That was why my parents agreed to send me to my brother. He arranged a job for me at a construction site. He was my only support there. Now I don't know how I will work there without him," said Sukhdev, adding, "My brother has a four-year-old child. The government should help his family and his child."
A Pakistani national was also among those killed in the drone attack. Two of the six injured in the attack were later identified as Indians.
While the UAE didn't immediately blame anyone for the attack, Yahia Sarei, a military spokesman of the Houthi group, had claimed that they had launched an attack "deep in the UAE".
Yemen's Houthi group has taken responsibility for several attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities in the past. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting Houthi rebels.