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Indian nurses stranded in Iraq return home

More than 40 women from Kerala were trapped while working in a hospital in the city of Tikrit when rebels attacked.

Last updated: 05 Jul 2014 15:39
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More than 40 Indian nurses who were trapped in an area of Iraq seized by Sunni armed fighters have arrived in India after being freed from the rebel-held city of Mosul.

They didn't do anything, they didn't disturb us and they didn't harm anyone. They didn't touch even. They talked nicely.

Marina Jose, nurse

The 46 nurses boarded a specially chartered plane for India from the city of Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, early on Saturday, and arrived in the southern Indian state of Kerala before noon local time (0630 GMT), after a stopover at Mumbai for refuelling.

The Press Trust of India reported that Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy met the nurses and their families at the city airport of Kochi.      

The nurses found themselves trapped while working in a state-run hospital in the northern city of Tikrit when armed rebels launched their lightning offensive last month.

"We all are very happy... We never thought we will come back, that we would come out," nurse Marina Jose told NDTV news channel before leaving for India.

"They didn't do anything, they didn't disturb us and they didn't harm anyone. They didn't touch even. They talked nicely," Jose said, without specifying who she was referring to.

Television footage showed anxious relatives of the women waiting at Kochi city airport as well as images of the fatigued nurses, holding their heads in their hands at Erbil airport before boarding their India-bound flight.

It was not immediately clear if they had been abducted and held captive or if they had been trapped and unable to leave.

They were moved from Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit to the rebel-controlled city of Mosul on Thursday.

The Indian foreign ministry said on Friday that the government was not immediately able to share details of how it arranged for the nurses to return home.

Armed rebels from the Islamic State (IS) group launched their offensive on June 9, and swiftly took control of large chunks of five provinces, sparking a crisis that has alarmed world leaders.

About 10,000 Indians work and live in Iraq.

According to the Indian Foreign Ministry, 39 Indian construction workers were abducted two weeks ago near Mosul and were being held by the rebels, but were safe and unharmed.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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