'Violence hits Iraq evacuation'

'Violence hits Iraq evacuation'

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday informed the relatives of Indians stranded in Iraq that violence on the street was affecting the evacuation process.

A batch of 40 Indians are scheduled to return from the conflict-ridden country on Tuesday, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). 

Soon after reviewing the Iraq situation with envoys from the Gulf countries, including ambassadors of Arab nations posted in India, Swaraj met with the families to assuage their concern.

“I shared the written message that came from our ambassador in Iraq with the families of the abducted. The government is trying to contact the abducted Indians. They (the families) were reassured,” she told a television channel.

The minister said the government was in touch with the nurses in violence-affected Tikrit. 

“The nurses remain unhurt, though they are scared because they hear noises (of gunshots and bombing) outside. Their hospitals have not been intruded upon. They had shortage of fund, which we provided through our contacts in that region,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. “A batch of 40 Indians will return to India the day after tomorrow,” he added.

But the violence on the street is coming in the way of a massive evacuation operation. Almost 10,000 Indians are in Iraq and the government has set up three camp offices and a mobile unit in Baghdad to facilitate their return. From Monday, 26 additional government officials will be in the West Asian country to help the stranded Indians. 

Indian Community Welfare Fund resources from the Gulf will be made available to assist Indian nationals in Iraq. 

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju was quoted by a television channel that three Air India planes would be used for the rescue operations. Asked about evacuation using Indian Air Force planes, Akbaruddin said all national assets were in a state of readiness.

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