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PHOTOS: Nurses reunite with families at Kochi airport

Last updated on: July 05, 2014 19:32 IST

PHOTOS: Nurses reunite with families at Kochi airport

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Forty-six nurses, who were held captive by Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants in Iraq, on Saturday returned home by a special Air India flight to a happy reunion with their families here, bringing to an end their about month-long ordeal.

  The special aircraft, which also had on board about 137 others, touched down the tarmac at the Kochi International Airport at 11.57 am, a senior airport official said.

“We were relieved when the militants released us. We have been well taken care of, and we will never return to Iraq,” said a freed nurse. “I want to thank everyone who helped us in getting out from there,” said Ancy Joseph, another nurse.

For our full coverage on Iraq, click here

“I am relieved, and have God and the Indian government to thank says,” P Jose father of Marina one of the nurses who was freed. The rules at the airport were relaxed for the benefit of the parents. Although the immigration clearances were not complete, parents were allowed inside the airport and see their daughters.

“I was not sure until I saw them from a distance,” said Jose.

The nurses had a small interaction with the Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy before they could go home. Their journey back home would be a memorable one, as Kochi appears as though it has geared up for a major festival.

With inputs from Vicky Nanjappa

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Image: One of the nurses who was stranded in the territory held by Islamic extremists in Iraq, hugs her relative upon arrival at the airport in Kochi on Saturday.
Photographs: PTI Photo

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Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy whose coordinated effort with the Union government that ensured liberty to nurses from his state, besides another who hails from Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu received them at the airport.

Family members of nurses, on whose face a sigh of relief was writ large had assembled in large numbers to see their beloved ones return and were joined by political leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party and and the Congress at the airport.

The ordeal of the nurses, who were working at a hospital in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, began when ISIS militants launched an offensive in that region on June 9.

Even as Indian authorities continued to maintain constant touch with their counterparts at Iraq for safe release of nurses, they were moved out on Thursday against their will and detained in the militant-held city of Mosul.

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Image: Maureen, one of then nurses who were stranded in the territory held by Islamic extremists in Iraq, holding her kid upon arrival at the airport in Kochi on Saturday
Photographs: PTI Photo

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Efforts by the external affairs ministry led to setting free the nurses held in captivity and they were transported in buses to Erbil International airport on Friday. The special flight that left Erbil in the early hours of Saturday arrived at Mumbai for a brief stop over for refueling and catering supplies.

Besides the nurses, the flight also carried 137 other Indian nationals, including 70 from Kirkuk in the northern part of Iraq, 23 crew members and three government officials, including a joint-secretary level IFS officer and an IAS woman officer from Kerala.

The Kerala government has made arrangements to enable nurses to reach their respective destinations across the state.

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Image: One of the nurses who was stranded in the territory held by Islamic extremists in Iraq, upon arrival at the airport in Kochi on Saturday.
Photographs: PTI Photo

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Chandy thanked the Centre, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the Indian embassy in Iraq and MEA for ensuring the return of nurses from strife-hit Iraq.

"The Centre has acted in complete understanding of the deep anxieties of Kerala. The MEA and the Indian embassy in Iraq have made sincere efforts in securing release of the nurses," Chandy said.


Image: An Indian nurse, center, who was among 46 nurses stranded in territory held by Islamic extremists in Iraq, walks with a baggage trolley upon arrival at the airport in Kochi on Saturday.
Photographs: PTI Photo

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