Nurses freed in Iraq, MEA hints at negotiation with captors

Using “very unconventional methods", says MEA spokesperson Akbaruddin

shreerupa

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | July 4, 2014



The 46 nurses who were in captivity in Iraq have been freed and an Air India flight is on its way from New Delhi to Erbil to get them back to India, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) told the media on Friday.

The flight on its return will first stop at Kochi and then come to New Delhi. A senior diplomat is on the plane to coordinate with the Kurdish authorities and the aviation department.

Calling it a "dramatic day", official MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, "I can confirm to you that the nurses who were kept against their will are now freed. Indian officials had already been positioned in Erbil from Baghdad should they be released."

The 39 Indian workers are still in captivity and remain unharmed. Akbaruddin asked the media to have "hope and faith that India is doing all it can to free the workers”. He also mentioned that the conventional tools of diplomacy do not exist in such a war situation. "We are in contact using very unconventional methods," said Akbaruddin, clearly hinting at negotiation with the captors.

The MEA spokesperson also said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is in touch with a host of her counterparts. "India has substantial friends inside and outside of Iraq" who are helping the country in this difficult situation, Akbaruddin said.

Since it is Friday in the holy month of Ramadan, work has halted as regards Indian nationals in non-conflict zone moving out of Iraq. However, the flight that has gone to pick the nurses will pick up 70 other Indian nationals who wish to leave.

In all, 2,000 Indians, mostly from southern Iraq, have signed up for returning to India.

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