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Iraq turmoil: Indian nurses in Tikrit held captive by ISIS; govt deals with ‘difficult times’

Some nurses suffered minor injuries in an incident of glass breaking in Iraq but no major injury to anybody: MEA.

Indian nurse Teena’s mother Lily and brother Tijo are both farm labourers. (Source: Express Photo) Indian nurse Teena’s mother Lily and brother Tijo are both farm labourers. (Source: Express Photo)

The 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit are now under the control of ISIS rebels, reports from Iraq said, even as India is dealing with the “difficult times” with no option in sight to evacuate these nurses, some of whom have suffered “minor injuries”, from the conflict zone in Iraq.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson also said the 46 nurses are safe but have moved to another location for safety. “Nurses, who have moved from Tikrit city of Iraq, are in touch with Indian Mission,” the MEA said.

Confirming that the nurses are “on road” and moving towards an undisclosed destination, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said they were moving for their own safety as there was no “freewill in a zone of conflict”, indicating that they were under captivity and moving under duress.

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He said that after considering the situation where there were no options as the area was not under Iraqi government’s control and the humanitarian groups were unable to reach to these nurses, the ministry, in consultation with the Kerala Chief Minister and other stakeholders, advised the nurses to “proceed” as were asked.

“It is not a situation of our choice. It is a difficult situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, reports in the website of Kerala daily Malayala Manorama said some of the nurses were injured when the rebels shattered some glass as they were being moved to a vehicle in the hospital compound. “Some nurses suffered minor injuries in an incident of glass breaking in Iraq but no major injury to anybody,” the MEA said.

The report, quoting the relatives of one of the captive nurses from Kerala, said the rebels reached the hospital arond noon and threatened to blow it up. While Subin managed to convey this to his relatives, his phone was picked up by someone speaking in Arabic when the called later, the report said.

A relative is consoled during a prayer meeting for the Indian workers stranded in Iraq, at Baba Budha Ji Sahib Gurdwara at Kathunangal in Amritsar. (Source: PTI) A relative is consoled during a prayer meeting for the Indian workers stranded in Iraq, at Baba Budha Ji Sahib Gurdwara at Kathunangal in Amritsar. (Source: PTI)

Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy meanwhile met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj seeking effective action to evacuate the 6 nurses, majority of whom are from Kerala.

Chandy expressed concern over the safety of the nurses who are in touch with him over telephone. The nurses told Chandy that they are living in panic, as the situation is deteriorating minute-by-minute, sources said.

Swaraj later informed Chandy that the situation is not conducive for their immediate evacuation and they can only be brought back after the situation normalises, officials said.

The government on Thursday said that the 39 Indians, who have been held hostage in Iraq are still in captivity but are unharmed.

The nurses had taken refuge in the basement of their hospital after bombing and firing took place in the vicinity of the building.

So far, nearly 600 Indians have left conflict-hit Iraq after being facilitated by the External Affairs Ministry and about 900 more are to follow even as the Indian embassy in Baghdad was in touch with the 46 nurses.

On Wednesday, the MEA spokesperson had said that the Indian Ambassador spoke to them and they remain “safe and unharmed”.

Iraq is witnessing serious strife with Sunni militants, backed by al Qaida, capturing two key cities and marching towards Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting that broke out on June 10.

(With PTI inputs)

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