Family members of Indian nurses who had been stranded in territory held by Islamic militants in Iraq await their arrival at the airport in Kochi, India, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (Photo:AP)
Nearly 50 Indian nurses abducted by suspected Islamist militants in Iraq have been released and will be flown home on Saturday, Indian officials said.
The nurses, all from the southern Indian state of Kerala, were being moved from the northern city of Mosul to Erbil, some 80 km (50 miles) away. They will be be brought home on an Indian government plane.
"They are all safe but they want to come back at the earliest," Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told a news conference on Friday.
"According to our latest report, they have reached the border near the international airport and they can reach the airport within an hour."
He added that the Indian government had agreed to send a special aircraft. The nurses would fly back to the city of Kochi, on India's southwestern coast, on Saturday.
The 46 nurses had been stranded in a hospital in the militant-controlled city of Tikrit for weeks but were moved on Thursday against their will, India's foreign ministry said.
The nurses were held in a building in Mosul on Thursday night, where they were given food, said C.C. Joseph, father of two of the nurses, Sona and Veena, after speaking to them.
Joseph said he wasn't able to reach his daughters by phone on Friday.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Sunni Muslim militant groups have seized towns and cities across Syria and Iraq in a lightning advance.
In addition to the nurses, 40 Indian construction workers are still in captivity.
About 10,000 Indians work in Iraq, mostly in areas unaffected by the fighting, but scores of them have returned to India since ISIL began its offensive.