Nearly 600 Indians will return to the country from conflict-hit Iraq over the next two days. Of them, 200 returned in an Iraqi Airways special chartered flight from Najaf to Delhi on Saturday, the external affairs ministry (MEA) said.
"The return of Indians from Iraq has gathered pace," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said, as 46 Indian nurses briefly held hostage by Sunni Arab militants arrived to an emotional welcome in Kochi.
"Tonight, 200 Indian nationals will return by Iraqi Airways special chartered flight from Najaf to Delhi. In addition, in the next 48 hours, approximately another 400 Indian nationals would be returning to various destinations in India, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, through commercial flights."
Read: SOS to friends, goodwill won India this battle
The MEA also said it was estimated that about 1,200 Indians would have returned to the country at the government's cost by Monday.
Akbaruddin added the Indian Mission in Baghdad was able to persuade Iraqi companies to send back approximately 600 other Indian nationals.
"Our Mission in Baghdad is also separately processing papers of approximately 400 other persons who are in some major companies. Once these are processed, the total number of Indians who would have returned to India in the last fortnight would be about 2,200," Akbaruddin said.
Read: Freed Kerala nurses say ISIS militants protected them
Indian nurses who were set free from Iraq are seen arriving at Kochi airport. (Photo credit: Doordarshan News)
There were about 10,000 Indians in Iraq before the start of the war between government troops and al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). With the MEA facilitating the rescue operations, an estimated 7,500 Indians in the non-conflict zones have been evacuated.
Fifty Indians, including 39 construction workers held captive in Mosul, are still feared to be trapped in the conflict zones.
Read: Nurses coming home, but why it will be harder to free Indian workers trapped in Iraq
HT Edit: Release of nurses in Iraq marks a new phase in Indian diplomacy
Full coverage: Iraq on the brink
Watch: Freed Indian nurses reach Kochi from Iraq, welcomed by Kerala CM