46 Indian nurses, who were stuck in Tikrit, have been forced to move out by ISIS 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.
Confirming that the nurses are “on road” and moving towards an undisclosed destination, the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) 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.
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.
However, the Spokesperson did not clearly say who asked them to move from the hospital in Tikrit and only added that. “Our embassy continues to be in touch even as they are moving to another location.”
The nurses remain “unharmed”, he said, adding some nurses suffered minor injuries in an incident of glass-breaking in Iraq but no one has got any major injury.
Another group of 39 Indian remains in captivity and was “unharmed”, he said.
There are about 100 Indians in the conflict zone, though an exact number was not possible to give, the Spokesperson said.
The Spokesperson said India was not alone in working for the safety of its nationals and it has partners “inside and outside Iraq“.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had comprehensive consultations with Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy who met her seeking an effective action to evacuate the nurses, a majority of whom are from Kerala.
Meanwhile, MEA has already given air tickets to nearly 1000 Indians to travel out of Iraq with 1500 Indians wanting to leave and have registered with the ministry.
In Erbil also, some Indians have conveyed to MEA officers that they want to leave, the Spokesperson said.
There were about 10,000 Indians before the start of the serious strife between government troops and Sunni militants, backed by al Qaida. The militants have captured two key cities and are marching towards Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the fighting that broke out on June 10.