Abducted Indian nurses in Iraq freed, to return home

The abductions left Indian authorities scrambling to secure their release

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A group of 46 Indian nurses abducted by jihadists in Iraq last month were on their way back home on Friday after being freed from the rebel-held city of Mosul, officials said.

“Ultimately it is hope that has triumphed,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry, told reporters.

“I can confirm to you that those Indian nurses who were yesterday moved against their will are now free.”

The nurses found themselves stranded while working in a state-run hospital in the northern city of Tikrit when jihadists launched their offensive last month. They were moved for the first time to the city of Mosul on Thursday.

They are now heading for the city of Arbil, the Kurdish regional capital, where they are set to board a specially chartered plane for India.

“The government of India has agreed to send a special aircraft and send them back to Kochi tomorrow morning,” said Oommen Chandy, the chief minister of the nurses' home state of southern Kerala.

“We are very thankful to the government of India, they have been very actively involved in this,” he added.

The news was hailed by relatives of the women.

Sayona Thomas, a nurse from Palakad in Kerala, called her father on Friday morning to tell him that their captors had agreed to release them.

“We are so happy and I thank God for everything,” he told the local Manorama News channel.

The abductions, along with the capture of 39 other Indian workers in Mosul, left Indian authorities scrambling to secure their release.

Their fate was the first foreign crisis for the new right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticism was beginning to mount nearly three weeks after they found themselves caught up in the violence.

“My daughter told me that the militants are treating them well and are providing them biscuits and water. But we are tense and keep praying for their safety,” the father of another nurse called Shruti S. Nair told AFP earlier Friday.

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