M A I N   N E W S

Iraq crisis
Nurses back, focus now on Punjabis
600 Indians to return by Monday
Sushma in touch with Gulf countries
Tribune News Service/PTI

Kochi/New Delhi, July 5
Forty-six Indian nurses, who were held captive by ISIS militants in Iraq, today returned home by a special Air India flight, bringing to an end their month-long ordeal.

The special aircraft, which also had on board 137 others, landed at the Kochi International Airport at 11.57 am, a senior airport official said.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and many BJP and Congress leaders received them at the airport.

The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, began when Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants launched an offensive in the region on June 9. Even as Indian authorities were in constant touch with their counterparts in Iraq for safe release of nurses, the latter were moved out on Thursday and detained in the militant-held city of Mosul. They were ferried to Erbil International airport in buses yesterday.

“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 release of the nurses,” Chandy said.

Now, the Centre claims to have doubled its efforts for the release of 39 Indian construction workers, mostly from Punjab, caught up in Iraq.

Sources said contacts used to get the nurses released were being used to get in touch with the militants who were holding the construction workers hostage. Those who have seen these workers have told the Indian authorities that they were safe and unharmed. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is in constant touch with her counterparts in Gulf countries. Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, today asked the government to intensify efforts to get the construction workers released.

Meanwhile, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the return of Indians from Iraq had gathered pace. “Nearly 200 Indians will return by Iraqi Airways special chartered flight from Najaf to Delhi tonight. In the next 48 hours, another 400 Indians will return to their hometowns in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad through commercial flights,” he said.

“Nearly 1,200 people would have returned to India at the government cost by Monday,” Akbaruddin said. The Indian mission in Baghdad has been able to persuade Iraqi companies to send back nearly 600 other Indian nationals.

BJP lauds govt efforts

We are grateful to the Modi-led government for the way it has helped the stranded Indians in Iraq and ensured their safe return.

Shrikant Sharma, bjp media cell in-charge

Task incomplete: Cong

The Centre must intensify efforts for release of 39 workers, mostly from Punjab, caught up in Iraq. Their relatives are concerned about their safety.

Capt Amarinder Singh, Congress Deputy Leader in ls





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