Indian nurses in Iraq 'moved' to unknown location

MEA says knocking on all doors; Kerala CM meets foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

shreerupa

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | July 3, 2014 | New Delhi



The 46 Indian nurses stuck in conflict-ridden Tikrit area of Iraq have been "moved" to an unknown location, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.

MEA official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin described the situation as one of "grave difficulty".

Asked whether the nurses have been taken hostage, Akbaruddin cryptically replied: "In zones of conflict, there is no free will and there are no norms. But we are in touch with the nurses and we will try our best to ensure their well-being."

He also said the Iraqi government has lost control of Tikrit. Earlier reports had suggested that Islamic State (IS) was willing to talk to the Indian government. Akbaruddin said the government is "knocking on all doors, which includes the front doors, backdoors and trapdoors" to ensure safety of the Indian nationals.

Not willing to comment whether this movement would go against them, Akbaruddin said that in conflict zones “we must see every difficulty as an opportunity”.

All 46 nurses are from Kerala.

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy, who is in the national capital with a group of advisors, had a long meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and he has been briefed on the situation, MEA officials said.

"The MEA has assured all necessary steps to locate the nurses. We cannot reveal all details because we need to ensure the safety of the nurses in Iraq,” Chandy was quoted as saying.

Though Akbaruddin dismissed reports of grave injury to the nurses due to a bomb blast, he confirmed that some nurses have sustained injuries from broken glass but these were of a "minor nature".

Meanwhile, 39 Indian workers who are confirmed to be in IS captivity are still unharmed, the MEA informed.

The ministry also said tickets for 900 Indians have been booked on Iraqi airlines. By MEA's estimation, there are 1,500 Indians who have registered to return home from Karbala, Najaf and Basra.

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