NEW DELHI: After two weeks in the conflict zone in Iraq, 46 Indian nurses are expected to be back in Kochi on Saturday after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants freed them near the border of the Kurdistan autonomous region.
The nurses, mostly from Kerala, were caught in a siege-like situation, unable to leave their hospital, ever since the al-Qaeda splinter group ISIL took over Tikrit.
Express had earlier reported that the External Affairs Minister herself called her Gulf counterparts and Iraq’s neighbours seeking “ground level assistance”. Sources had said on Thursday that there had been “some receptivity” to her personal plea.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the release of the “nurses just didn’t happen like that” he said and an “enormous amount of effort was put in both within and outside Iraq” for it.
He said, “Be rest assured that India has friends inside and outside Iraq,” adding that “substantial support” was received. He also said India had put to use all “assets” on the ground, which include goodwill for the country among the international community.
With about 39 workers still in captivity, the MEA was understandably reticent about revealing any details that could impact their safety. “Diplomacy works through the front door. I had said that we were using other doors and how those doors were knocked at and opened is a story for another day,” he said. The senior MEA official noted that the success in “extricating the nurses mAakes us redouble efforts for those who are still in captivity”. “Resources used to free these nurses will be diverted to free other Indians... Will leave no stone unturned to bring back Indians from Iraq,” he said.
The nurses had left the hospital at about 1 pm (local time) on Thursday. The decision to ask the nurses to obey the militants was made following meetings between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Kerala CM Oommen Chandy.