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17 more Indians evacuated from Iraq’s conflict zone

New Delhi, June 24 Seventeen more Indians have been evacuated from Iraq’s conflict zone, the government announced Tuesday even as the security environment in the area continued to be volatile.

“With the help of local authorities, we have been able to evacuate 17 more Indian nationals from the conflict zone. They are now in Baghdad and will go back to their homes shortly,” the external affairs ministry said.

Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the 39 Indians abducted and in captivity had “not been hurt or harmed”.

He said that in view of the volatile security environment in conflict zones, Indians have been advised to stay indoors.

The 46 Indian nurses in Tikrit were also safe, he added.

The government had Monday said that over 120 Indians were stranded in the conflict zone in Iraq where Sunni insurgents have made rapid advances against the Iraqi authorities. It said 17 Indians had moved out.

Asked Tuesday about the number of Indians left in the conflict zone, Akbaruddin said it was not possible to pin down the number.

“We can give you a drift of the situation. There are 34 less than they were in the beginning,” he said.

The ministry, which had issued a travel advisory June 15, issued a fresh advisory Tuesday stating that the security situation in Iraq continues to be fragile.

“Due to the uncertain and difficult security environment, Indian nationals in Iraq are again advised to remain indoors if they are in conflict-prone areas, and to leave the country on voluntary basis by commercial means, in areas where it is safe to do so,” the advisory said.

It said Indian nationals “are advised to refrain from undertaking travel to Iraq until further notice”.

The advisory said airports in Erbil, Baghdad, Basra and Najaf were reported to be operational at present and Indian nationals in Iraq who need assistance could contact the Indian embassy in Baghdad on the 24-hour helpline.

The advisory said the Indian embassy in Baghdad will shortly open camp offices in Najaf, Karbala and Basra for the convenience of Indians nationals in Iraq.

It is understood that India is in touch with countries in the region like Saudi Arabia to urge them to assist in freeing the Indians in captivity.

The Indians, who belong mostly to Punjab and Haryana, were working in Mosul as construction workers, drivers or sanitary workers. They were abducted over a week ago by suspected ISIS militants who have overrun large parts of northern Iraq and taken over Mosul and Tikrit.

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