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46 Indian nurses return to Kochi; CM thanks Center

July 04
23:30 2014

Chandy expresses relief, thanks Centre for return of nursesTHIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Bringing an end to the ordeal, 46 Indian nurses have returned to Kochi after being held in captivity by ISIS militants in the war torn Iraq. Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy was present at the airport to receive the Indians returning from Iraq.

Relieved to have the nurses back in India, the Kerala CM thanked the Narendra Modi government for ensuring the return of the Indian nurses from strife-hit Iraq. “The Centre has acted in complete understanding of the deep anxieties of Kerala. The Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Iraq have made sincere efforts in securing the release of the nurses. Our main focus was to see that the nurses come back home safely,” Chandy said.

Minister of External Affairs General VK Singh also said that the government was working on the rescue of the Indians in Iraq and it paid off.

Even his political rivals at home admitted that persistent efforts by Chandy, who had camped in Delhi for the last two days, saw the Centre making all out efforts to secure the return from Iraq of the 46 nurses, one of whom hails from Tamil Nadu.

The nurses remained trapped in a hospital in Iraq’s Tikrit for several days after the area came under the control of the militants of ISIS.

Voicing relief over the return of the nurses, CPI (M) leader VS Achuthanandan acknowledged the efforts of the Centre and the state government in the matter.

A special Air India flight carrying the 46 Indian nurses and 137 others released by ISIS arrived earlier in Mumbai, from where it headed to Kochi.

Besides the nurses, the plane was carrying 137 other Indian nationals, including 70 from Kirkuk in the northern part of Iraq.

An Air India spokesperson in Kochi said there are 183 passengers, including 23 crew members and three government officials, including a joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala on board the flight.

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 detained in the militant-held city of Mosul, 250 km from Tikrit. The Erbil International airport is about 80 km from Mosul.

Speaking to reporters in Kochi, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that evacuation of nurses from Iraq was a result of “collective efforts” and thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian Embassy in Iraq and Ministry of External Affairs.

“We were in a very difficult situation in the last few days. Nurses in Tikrit were directly contacting me and their family members were contacting me.

“I requested External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and also called the Indian Embassy. I am very thankful to Swaraj and Indian ambassadors, MEA and the Embassy, they all helped us,” he said.

“In the last two days, I met Swaraj four times and we discussed everything and I’m happy about the attitude of the minister, she took personal interest,” said Chandy.

Meanwhile, the relatives of the nurses have already arrived at Nedumbassery Airport to receive them.

Father of Neenu Jose (23) from Rajakaad in Idukki said, “I am grateful to God, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj”.

Neenu’s mother said, “Today is my daughter’s birthday and the reunion is the best gift”.

Sudeep, CEO of NORKA Roots, which acts as a counsel for the non-resident Keralites, said all the 46 nurses, except one, belonged to Kerala. The other one hails from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

All efforts will be made to take them to their respective residences as soon as they arrive in Kochi, he said.–PTI

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