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India Anxiety Over Nurses in Iraq Ends as Flight is Home Bound to Kochi, Hyderabad

Unlike the Vajpayee government that was caught with the Taliban hijack of Nepal-bound Indian flight and succumbed to their demands, the new Narendra Modi government caught unawares about the Iraq developments was able to free its 46 Indian nurses and send them home safely.

The 46 nurses were held captive by the ISIS militants but were set free later after diplomatic niceties were extended, mainly owing to Saddam Hussein’s rosy days of friendship with India. Now that they are set free, the Indian embassy moved fast and pu them on a chartered Air India B-777 aircraft that was brought from New Delhi on Friday evening.

The flight reached Erbil in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan area, a no-conflict zone, and besides the 46 freed nurses, the plane is also carrying 137 other Indian nationals, 70 of them from the troubled Kirkuk region.The plane is Kochi-bound and is expected to reach at 11:55 am on Saturday, informed Cochin International Airport Director A K C Nair.

From Kochi, the flight will go to Hyderabad and then Delhi. An IFS officer of joint-secretary rank and an IAS woman officer from Kerala are among those on board. In all 183 passengers, including 23 crew members and three government officials, are onboard.

“I can confirm the Indian nurses moved out against their will (from Tikrit to Mosul) are free. They are in touch with Indian embassy officials at Erbil,” MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. It may be noted that these nurses initially refused to leave Tikrit opting to remain in the conflict zone to continue their service until it became clear that ISIS is actually holding them captive.

He clarified that India has friends in Iraq. “It (release of the nurses) didn’t happen just like that. There were enormous efforts undertaken both in and out of Iraq… India has friends both in and out of Iraq. We knocked on many doors, one door opened,” he said, without giving any details further over any ransom that could have been paid.

“Conventional diplomatic tools don’t exist in conflict areas,” he said, which means it was a give and take or typical settlement deal that was reached with the captors.

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