In circumstances that are reminiscent of the Iraq situation, around 750 Indian nurses, mostly from Kerala, are stuck in the middle of fierce combating between the Libyan government and the Islamist forces in parts of Tripoli and Benghazi in eastern Libya.

The problems for Indian nurses in Libya come close on the heels of the rescue of 46 Indian nurses from Iraq.

Forty construction workers continue to be held hostage by Islamic State militants, who have overrun a considerable part of northern Iraq.

The vicious warfare between in Benghazi and the persistent battles between militants and the government in Tripoli from last two weeks have sent Libya in a state of utter turmoil and chaos.  A total of around 150 people have been killed in Libya so far.

The ongoing warfare in Libya has already been branded as the fiercest battle in the country since the ouster of their tyrannical de facto ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in the 2011 civil war.

According to reports, a minimum of 30 people were killed in fighting on Monday that carried on throughout the night as the Libyan forces tackled a vicious onslaught by militants to get control over a military base in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, taking note of the fighting, Indian Ambassador in Libya, Azar A. H. Khan, met the nurses in the Tripoli hospitals and assured them of their safety.

"Everybody is safe here. We are in constant touch with the nurses," Khan said over the phone from Tripoli.

The ambassador, however, said that only some Indian nationals, mostly nurses, have approached the embassy for help in leaving the country.

"It is only in some places around the airport where fighting is raging... rest of the places are fine," he said.

Panic gripped the Indian nationals after incessant shelling rocked the area around Tripoli airport and elsewhere, in a two week-long battle since mid-July.

However, of the 430 Indian nurses based in two hospitals in Tripoli, only 88 have sought help from the Indian mission.

A total of 365 nurses are based in Tripoli Medical Centre (TMC), while 71 medical staff members, comprising technicians, paramedics and nurses, are based in Tripoli's Al Khadra hospital, an embassy official said.

Nearly 74 out of 365 in TMC have shown their inclination to leave the country, added the envoy.

The embassy has been arranging for passports and other travel documents for all those who want to exit Libya by road.

Also, some 350 nurses are located in Benghazi, another restive city in eastern Libya, but only a few have wished to leave their place.

Ambassador Khan said the number of those wanting to leave the country keeps fluctuating as people have financial issues, apart from their own safety.

In the meantime, following the closure of Tripoli airport which the militants tried to take over, the Libyan civil aviation ministry has announced resumption of limited air operations from Mitiga airport in Tripoli and Misurata airport (200 km from Tripoli) by Al Afriqiya and Libyan Airlines.

"Tripoli's military airport can take a few people out of the country, while the main exit route that we advise is through the check points on Libyan-Tunisian and Libyan-Egyptian borders," the ambassador said.

The embassy said Indians have been advised to cross the Libyan border in small batches into safer countries like neighbouring Tunisia.

The embassy has appointed area coordinators in regions across the country to update the mission on concerns of its nationals residing there.

The country witnessed a major evacuation of over 18,000 Indian nationals during the NATO-led military intervention and the fall of the Colonel Gaddafi regime in March 2011.

The external affairs ministry said on Tuesday that the Indian government has begun making arrangements to facilitate the return of the around 4,500 Indian nationals, including 750 nurses, working in Libya.

A day after issuing an advisory to Indian nationals to avoid conflict zones in Libya and use all available means to exit the country, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reviewed the security situation impacting on Indian nationals in Libya, said the ministry spokesperson.



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