The Indian government is undertaking a massive evacuation drive for bringing back Indian nationals from Iraq, parts of which have already fallen to the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with 600 Indians expected to return by this week. On Monday, 94 Indians returned from Iraq following efforts by Indian officials in Iraq who facilitated their evacuation.
Even though several towns are still secure under the Iraqi government's control, Indians are being asked to leave from there as the situation is expected to worsen in the country.
The Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have estimated the number of Indians in Iraq's safe zones at 10,000.
"The facilitation of Indian nationals in Iraq in areas which are not in conflict zones is now underway," said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Ministry. "The departure of more than 600 Indian nationals will be facilitated during the course of this week." 60 Indians from Najaf, 30 from Karbala and four from Baghdad left from Iraq on Monday, he added.
The Centre had asked officials to set up camp offices in the three towns of Najaf, Karbala and Basra. Indian officials are taking a "proactive approach" and reaching out to Indians staying in safer areas in Iraq to evacuate, as the situation seems to be deteriorating ever since the militants began their offensive.
The Indian embassy is reported to be helping Indians in getting their papers together to leave Iraq. While Air India and the Indian Navy had already put their vessels on alert for evacuation, cargo ships are also being sent to Basra to take Indians to a safe port from where they can catch a flight back to India. Air India has kept three flights on standby for evacuation, while the Indian Navy's INS Mysore has already reached the Persian Gulf.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had on Sunday met with Indian envoys in Gulf countries to ask them to assist in the evacuation operations and to give the Indian government ground report on the situation in the Middle East country.
About 40 Indians are said to have been abducted by the ISIL militants from Mosul and are being used as captive labour, according to The Times of India. 46 Indian nurses are also said to be trapped in Tikrit.
Akbaruddin was earlier reported saying that about 100 Indians are trapped in conflict zones in Iraq at present.