New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram : Sunni insurgents on Thursday forced all 46 Indian nurses to move out of a hospital in Iraq where they had been holed up, injuring three of them. The nurses were moved in three buses to an unknown destination by the insurgents who control large parts of Iraq. Some media reports said the place could be Mosul, an insurgent stronghold.
The nurses, it is learnt, had on Tuesday refused to board buses brought by “some English-speaking men” to the hospital in Tikrit where they had been stranded for more than two weeks. On Wednesday they were told they would be taken to Mosul. On Thursday, the insurgents reportedly bombed the Tikrit hospital premises, injuring the nurses, in a bid to force them to leave, reports reaching the Kerala capital said.
The external affairs ministry tried to downplay the matter: an MEA spokesperson, when asked if the insurgents had shifted them forcibly, said: “In zones of conflict there is no free will. There are no expressions of free will.” Pressed to reveal who held them, the spokesman said: “Everything need not be said. Our understanding is that it is for their own safety that they have agreed to move out. All of them are safe and unharmed.”
The spokesperson, however, admitted that there was no information about the destination for which the nurses were bound.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, too, said there was “no reason for any anxiety” but he was silent when asked if the Indian embassy in Iraq was negotiating with the Sunni captors.
“I am sorry. We are unable to reveal more information on this aspect due to constraints,” he said. “My understanding is that a while ago they have moved to another location. The MEA is in regular touch with the Indian embassy in Baghdad and through it with a variety of interlocutors on the ground,” he added.
A total of 25 Indian officials are now deployed in four Iraqi cities — Baghdad, Najaf, Basra and Karbala — to oversee the rescue of stranded Indians.