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46 abducted nurses in Iraq freed



New Delhi: New Delhi Friday said that 46 Indian nurses stranded at a hospital in the violence-hit Iraqi city of Tikrit for the past three weeks have been finally freed by their captors and would be brought back home on today, along with 70 others.

At a media briefing in Delhi, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that all the nurses were safe, freed by their captors and being brought back home. "I can confirm to you that those Indian nurses who were moved against their will are now free," he said.

The 46 nurses — all from Kerala, except one — have been working at a hospital in Tikrit when the militants launched an offensive and took control of the city. They were reportedly moved out of Tikrit on Thursday against their will, and taken to Mosul on buses by ISIS rebels.

"It's been a day of dramatic developments. We started with some of you thinking we were moving towards hopelessness. Ultimately it is hope that has triumphed. We had sent our officials from Baghdad to Erbil. They are now in contact with the Indian nurses," the spokesperson said.

"This process did not happen just like that. It happened because enormous amount of effort was put in both inside and outside Iraq. We didn't share the information with you as the process was underway. This makes us re-double our efforts for those who are still under captivity," he added. Akbaruddin also said that along with the 46 nurses, 70 others would fly back to India on a special flight.

Identity secret
"The flight will first fly to Kochi, and then will fly to Delhi to drop off others. A senior Indian diplomat will be on the plane," he said. However, refusing to disclose the identity of the nurses' captors, he said, "We will reveal to you who were the captors after the process is over."

Earlier in the day, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is camping in Delhi, also said that "all the 46 Indian nurses are safe and are on their way home. They have been taken by bus to the Kurdish city of Erbil from where they will take a flight to India".

All the nurses, except one, are from Kerala. "The lone nurse from Tamil Nadu will be helped back home by the Kerala government," said Chandy who had met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday and urged her to take necessary steps to bring back the nurses safe. The International Red Cross has also reportedly confirmed that all the 46 Indian nurses had been freed by the ISIS.

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