"But the situation changed dramatically Friday morning when the militants, after serving breakfast, allowed them to speak over the telephone to their families in Kerala."
New Delhi, July 4 - National passenger carrier Air India Friday said it will operate a special aircraft service to Iraq for bring back the 46 stranded Indian nurses.
Our flight will take off 6.00 p.m. IST here and will land at Erbil (airport) by 8.20 p.m. Iraq time. The flight will load passengers and take off from there by 9.30 p.m. (Iraq time) and head towards Kochi, a senior Air India officer with the operations arm based in New Delhi told IANS.
According to the official, a Boeing 777 LR (long range) aircraft will be operated on the service. The aircraft can accommodate more than 300 passengers.
There will be 12 Air India cockpit and cabin crew on board. The ministry of external affairs (MEA) officials will also be on board, the official said, adding that the aircraft is expected to reach Kochi airport by 5.40 a.m. IST Saturday.
The development comes after the Sunni insurgents in Iraq agreed to free all 46 Indian nurses.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also confirmed the development to IANS from New Delhi. Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan in Iraq.
The 46 nurses who were kidnapped by the Sunni insurgents were put on a bus from Tikrit Thursday afternoon and driven to Mosul. They were further taken from Mosul to Erbil, 60 km away.
Their shifting caused panic, with some reports suggesting that the nurses would be forced by the Sunni insurgents to work in hospitals controlled by them in Mosul, their stronghold.
But the situation changed dramatically Friday morning when the militants, after serving breakfast, allowed them to speak over the telephone to their families in Kerala.
It was the first definitive indication that the nurses were set to taste freedom.