More than 40 nurses who had been held in insurgent-held territory in Iraq were freed Friday, cheering relatives and many others across India who had closely followed reports of their captivity.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry, said the nurses, who had been stranded at a hospital in Tikrit and then moved to the city of Mosul, were freed because of “enormous efforts put in within and outside of Iraq.”
Another group of Indian nationals, 39 construction workers abducted two weeks ago near Mosul, is still being held. Akbaruddin said the government would do everything it could to rescue them from “extremely difficult circumstances.”
Both groups were swept up in the assault by insurgents of the militant Sunni Arab group that now calls itself the Islamic State. Its fighters have seized large stretches of northern and western Iraq in the last month.
The 46 nurses were allowed to leave Mosul and traveled to northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region. They were scheduled to fly from Irbil on Saturday.
A relative of one of the nurses told the Hindustan Times newspaper that five of the nurses had suffered minor injuries from a nearby explosion as they were being transported in trucks from the hospital in Tikrit.
Another relative, Jonarthan K.R., brother-in-law of nurse Lisima Jerose Monisha, quoted her as saying the militants had treated them well.
Reached by telephone on her way to the airport, nurse Medina Jose praised Indian Embassy officials for their efforts, and said they were with the group.
“Please have faith that the government is doing all it can to bring back Indians from Iraq,” Akbaruddin told reporters. “We are engaged at the ground and diplomatic levels. Our priority is the safe return of those in captivity."
Parth M.N. is a special correspondent.