NEW DELHI:The 46 Indian nurses stranded in Iraq's Tikrit town that has been overrun by ISIS militants have been told to board a bus by unknown men and proceed to Mosul. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy confirmed to IANS the development. The Indian embassy in Baghdad has advised the nurses to “try and hold on till (Thursday) morning”.
The nurses have not left, an official source told IANS.
The nurses had on Tuesday refused to board two buses brought by “some English-speaking men” to the hospital compound in Tikrit where they have been stranded for more than two weeks. But on Wednesday they were being forced to board the buses and were told they would be taken to Mosul, which is another stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who arrived in New Delhi Wednesday night, said he would be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the matter.
Asked about the nurses being told to travel by bus, the chief minister told IANS: “Yes, I am told the people are going by bus.”
“I’m contacting the union foreign minister, the Indian embassy in Iraq,” the chief minister added.
Nurses in Grip of Fear
According to a source, the nurses are very worried. One of the nurses told IANS that they contacted the Indian embassy officials in Baghdad and were “advised to try and hold on till tomorrow morning”.
The men who asked them to leave have given the nurses “two hours” to decide and warned that the hospital is going to be bombed, a source told IANS.
The nurses are frightened with the sound of explosions going off around the hospital. The Iraqi army is locked in a fierce battle with the ISIS militants to retake the city. “Bombs are exploding around the hospital all the time,” one of them said.
On Tuesday, the nurses had refused to board the buses after being told by the Indian embassy officials to stay put. They remained in the hospital in Tikrit.
Chandy arrived in New Delhi late Wednesday night to discuss how to help the nurses.
PTI Adds: According to families of some stranded nurses, their wards had been in the grip of fear since they could hear sounds of gunfire and grenades close to the street where the hospital is located.
Father of one of them from Kottayam, who does not want to be identified fearing it would risk his daughter's safety, said his daughter called him this afternoon and said water and power supply to the hospital had been disrupted.
"She told me that they were mostly surviving on pieces of bread or buns and small quantity or rice served occasionally," he said.
"It is a great relief that the telephone link is not lost. But only God knows how long even that would last," he said.