New Delhi/Kochi, 5 July-2014(JPN/Agencies): All 46 Indian women nurses, who were released by Sunni militants ISIS in strife-torn Iraq on Friday, are being brought back home along with 70 others in a special Air India plane.
The aircraft that has as many as 160 Indian nationals onboard, took off from the Erbil airport at 3 am on Friday for New Delhi. The plane is expected to land at 11:50 am on Saturday.
In a telephonic interview from New Delhi, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that he will be in Kochi to receive the nurses when they return in a special Air India flight.
“The nurses, all from Kerala, are safe,” official sources said.
The Chief Minister, who has been camping in New Delhi since the crisis erupted, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and thanked her. He had earlier expressed confidence that the nurses would return to Kerala soon.
The development triggered a wave of joy in Kerala. The family of one of the nurses said that all of them were on their way from Mosul to Erbil. A group of Keralites and Indian embassy officials from Baghdad were at the border of Kurdistan to receive the nurses, an official source said.
“They have to cross three or four check posts at the Kurdistan border. Our people are there at the final check post,” the official added.
The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, began when a swift ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) offensive was launched on June 9.
The nurses were moved out on Thursday against their will and were held in the militant-held city of Mosul, 250 km from Tikrit.
“The nurses are safe, unharmed,” the spokesperson said.
Asked if National Security Advisor Ajit Doval played any role in the negotiations to get the nurses released, he said at the diplomatic level, negotiations involved External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj herself but at the ground level, the details cannot be shared.
“Diplomacy works through the front doors. We are using other doors and how those doors were used and knocked on and how they were opened up is a story for another day. The story for today is that one of those doors opened and we were able to extricate our nationals,” External Affairs
Ministry Spokesperson said.
He further noted that the Indian officials were always in touch with what was going on with the nurses and said, “Things don’t happen just like that. There is a lot of effort, patience and a lot of quiet work that has gone into this.”
A joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala are among the Indian officials travelling on the chartered flight.
At a separate press conference in Delhi, Chandy said the nurses have reached the border near the international airport at Erbil for their evacuation to India.
“The nurses will reach Kochi tomorrow morning,” Chandy said.
“The government of India, the embassy in Baghdad and the state government, all have worked together and finally we are achieving the objective to bring back the nurses to India,” he said.