An Indian nurse kisses her nephew on her arrival at the airport in Kochi, India, July 5, 2014. After being stranded for over three weeks in the war-torn Iraqi city of Tikrit, 46 Indian nurses Saturday returned to their home town of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala where they were greeted with flowers and given a grand welcome. (Xinhua/Stringer)
NEW DELHI, July 5 (Xinhua) -- After being stranded for over three weeks in the war-torn Iraqi city of Tikrit, 46 Indian nurses Saturday returned to their home town of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala where they were greeted with flowers and given a grand welcome.
The nurses, along with 100 other Indians, mostly from Kerala, flew back to their home state by a special flight, after the para- medics were freed Friday evening by their captors -- Sunni insurgent group ISIS -- who had forcibly taken them on buses to the city of Mosul Thursday.
The flight first landed at 9.30 a.m. (local time) in Mumbai for refueling, and then headed for Kochi where it reached around noon. The nurses and their fellow travelers were received by Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy.
Some of the nurses told the media that the rebels treated them well as they were taken to Mosul on buses, before being handed over to Indian officials. They subsequently took a plane of the national carrier Air India from the nearby international airport at Erbil.
In fact, the 46 nurses were holed up at a hospital in Tikrit since June 12 when ISIS rebels launched an offensive and took control of the city, the birthplace of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry on Friday said that the nurses were freed by their captors and were safe. "All the nurses are safe. It has been a day of dramatic developments," spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told the media.
Experts said that this is a major diplomatic victory for the government of Narendra Modi, who came to power just some months ago defeating the Congress party which was in power for the last 10 years.
"The credit goes to Modi government, particularly External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who worked day and night to overcome the crisis. The minister not only reached out to the Gulf countries, but also held back-channel talks with Syria, Jordan and Turkey," said Delhi-based Prof. S.K. Gupta.
The external affairs minister's spokesperson had said that they used non-government contacts, past and present. "All national assets were used, including India's international goodwill," Akbaruddin had said.
Sources said that efforts are now on to secure the release of 39 construction workers who were kidnapped in Mosul some two weeks ago. "India is confident of bring them back as well," they said.