A special Air India flight carrying 46 Indian nurses set free by Sunni militants ISIS in strife-torn Iraq and 137 others arrived in Mumbai on Saturday.
The flight carrying 183 Indian nationals from Erbil landed in Mumbai at 8:43 AM. The flight had made a ‘technical halt’ in Mumbai for refuelling and catering supplies.
Besides the nurses, the flight also carried 137 other Indian nationals, including 70 from Kirkuk in the northern part of Iraq, 23 crew members and three government officials, including a joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala.
An Air India spokesperson in Kochi said there are 183 passengers, including 23 crew members and three government officials, including a joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala on board the flight.
According to information provided by Air India from Erbil, forty-six nurses will get down at Kochi and around 100 other passengers are bound for Hyderabad.
The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, began when a swift ISIS (Islamic State for Iraq and Syria) offensive was launched on June 9.
The nurses were moved out on Thursday against their will and detained in the militant-held city of Mosul, 250 km from Tikrit. The Erbil International airport is about 80 km from Mosul.
Speaking to reporters in Kochi, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that evacuation of nurses from Iraq was a result of “collective efforts” and thanked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Indian Embassy in Iraq and Ministry of External Affairs.
“We were in a very difficult situation in the last few days. Nurses in Tikrit were directly contacting me and their family members were contacting me. I requested External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and also called the Indian Embassy. I am very thankful to Swaraj and Indian ambassadors, MEA and the Embassy, they all helped us,” he said.
“In the last two days, I met Swaraj four times and we discussed everything and I’m happy about the attitude of the minister, she took personal interest,” said Chandy.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the nurses have already arrived at Nedumbassery Airport to receive them.
Father of Neenu Jose (23) from Rajakaad in Idukki said, “I am grateful to God, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj”. Neenu’s mother said, “Today is my daughter’s birthday and the reunion is the best gift”.
Sudeep, CEO of NORKA Roots, which acts as a counsel for the non-resident Keralites, said all the 46 nurses, except one, belonged to Kerala. The other one hails from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.
All efforts will be made to take them to their respective residences as soon as they arrive in Kochi, he said.