On their way to the Erbil international airport on Friday night, the 46 nurses who were released by their captors on Friday were a happy lot.
They did not have any ill-feelings towards their captors, and thanked them profusely for giving them food even while they themselves were on fast.
When this correspondent got through to her on the phone after several attempts, Mareena Jose, who hailed from Kottayam in Kerala, could barely contain her joy.
“We are all so happy. It is indescribable…no amount of words can express it…I can’t wait to meet my family…they have been so worried this whole time,” she told The Hindu.
“We never thought we would come out of this situation alive…we thank everyone…the government, the officials, the media…for tracking us…watching over us...and finally helping us get out,” she said.
“We left Mosul today [Friday] morning at 10 am. From there they took us in a bus to a place along the Erbil-Mosul border…our embassy officials received us there and took us to a hotel…and now we are going to the Erbil airport,” she said.
She said they had been in captivity for the last 20 days but the situation worsened over the last four days.
“Last four-five days were very worrying…everyday, we would hear gunshots outside our hospital building. Bombs kept going off…so we used to go down to the basement every night,” said Ms. Mareena.
Ms. Mareena said the militants communicated with them through a doctor in their group who could speak broken English. “He would translate whatever they said to us,” she said.
Some of the nurses were injured while being moved out of the hospital on Thursday. How did that happen?
“That happened when they were getting us out of the hospital….some of us were late in getting out and so they received some minor injuries from the shells being fired around us,” she said.
Ms. Mareena explained why the militants moved them out of the hospital against their will. “They never wanted to hurt us. For the last 2 to 3 days, they kept asking us to move out of the basement…but we were scared so we kept saying no. On Thursday, they just forced us out of the hospital building against our will.
“Later we got to know that they wanted to blow the hospital up and had planted a bomb in the basement. They did not want any of us getting hurt and so they forcibly removed us from the building,” said Ms.Mareena. “They treated us well. Even though they were all fasting, they ensured we did not go hungry,” she said.