About 70 Indian citizens, including dozens of Indian nurses who were held captive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, are expected to return home Saturday, according to reports.
The nurses are to be airlifted from Erbil in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region by a chartered jet arranged by state-owned carrier Air India, which will take them to Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, according to The Hindu, a local newspaper. The nurses were taken by the extremist Sunni militant group from a hospital in Tikrit last month, and moved to a different location Thursday.
“Going beyond hospitality, our crew will extend emotional support by talking to them,” an Air India official reportedly told The Hindu. The aircraft to bring back the Indian nationals has left New Delhi on Friday, reports said, citing an external affairs ministry spokesperson.
“My daughter called me last night saying they reached Mosul around 11pm (Indian time). They are in an old building that is without electricity. So far, the abductors were friendly towards them,” Shobha Sasikumar, one of the relatives, told Hindustan Times, a local newspaper.
The nurses, who were held captive in Tikrit near Baghdad, were moved to Erbil against their will, on Thursday. Concerns about the women's safety grew after their sudden and unexplained move from Tikrit to Erbil.
"They asked us to get ready in five minutes," one of the nurses who spoke to her father while being held, said, according to Firstpost.com, a local news website.
India's external affairs ministry has sought international cooperation in assisting the release of kidnapped Indians in Iraq, including a group of 39 construction workers who were kidnapped more than two weeks back.
About 10,000 Indians work in Iraq, according to NDTV, a local news network, which cited government estimates.