In a telephonic interview from New Delhi, the Chief Minister said that he will be in Kochi to receive the nurses on Saturday when they return in a special Air India flight.

The nurses, all from Kerala, are safe, official sources said.

Chandy said that the nurses were being taken in a bus from Mosul to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan.

“An Air India plane will leave Delhi on Friday evening to Erbil to fetch them back," Chandy said.

"There will be one official each from Kerala government and the Centre on the plane," he said. "The nurses will board the flight at Erbil and the plane will reach Kochi at 7 am tomorrow,” he added.

The Chief Minister, who has been camping in New Delhi since the crisis erupted, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and thanked her.

He had earlier expressed confidence that the nurses would return to Kerala soon.

The development triggered a wave of joy in Kerala.

The family of one of the nurses said that all of them were on their way from Mosul to Erbil. A group of Keralites and Indian embassy officials from Baghdad were at the border of Kurdistan to receive the nurses, an official source said.

"They have to cross three or four check posts at the Kurdistan border. Our people are there at the final check post," the official added.

The 46 nurses were put on a bus from Tikrit on Thursday afternoon by armed militants and driven to Mosul.

Their shifting caused panic, with some reports suggesting that the nurses would be forced by the insurgents to work in hospitals controlled by them in Mosul, their stronghold.

But the situation changed dramatically on Friday morning when the militants, after serving breakfast, allowed them to speak over the telephone to their families in Kerala.

(JPN/Agencies)

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