26 countries ask for Indian help to rescue citizens from Yemen
07 Apr 2015
Following India's remarkable success in rescuing not only its own citizens but those of some 26 other countries from strife-torn Yemen, as many as 26 nations today asked for India's continuing help in rescuing their citizens.
As the situation in Yemen deteriorates into a civil war between rival militia, India has mounted a massive rescue effort, evacuating over 3,500 of its own citizens and at least 225 others by sea and air. On Monday alone, it evacuated 1,000 people from Sana'a by air and Al Hodeida by sea.
The successful rescue effort is a feather in the cap of minister of state for external affairs Gen V K Singh, the former Indian Army chief who retired amid controversy and then joined politics through the ruling BJP.
Countries with citizens trapped in Yemen - including major powers such as France and the United States - have taken notice and are among those who have requested India for help, according to external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
Singh has been coordinating evacuation operations from Sana'a in Yemen and Djibouti.
His chief, minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj, had said on Monday that 23 nations had asked for help in rescuing their citizens. Today three more countries joined in the appeal for help.
"My assessment is that out of all those who want to leave Yemen, I don't think more than 200-300 are left," said Gen Singh. Three Air India flights flew 574 passengers out of Yemen's Sana'a, while INS Mumbai evacuated 474 from Al Hudaydah port yesterday.
With most Indians rescued, the evacuation effort is set to end on Wednesday, Akbaruddin tweeted.
Saudi Arabia has backed Sunni Yemeni militias in the south of the country by carrying out airstrikes against Iran-allied Shi'ite Houthi fighters across several provinces.
Houthis remain in control of the capital Sana'a but have suffered heavy damages since the airstrikes began. The bombing campaign has killed over 600 people since it began a week ago. Many more are wounded and tens of thousands have fled (See: Fighting unabated as Yemen falls apart).
Earlier this month Houthis, who had long complained of being suppressed in the Sunni-majority country, had wrested control of the capital and large swathes of Yemen after defeating army troops loyal to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who first escaped house arrest to emerge in Aden, before eventually fleeing to Saudi Arabia.
US seeks Indian aid
According to a CNN report, the Indian government has told the US that it will help rescue American citizens in Yemen. The US Embassy in Sann'a put out an emergency message saying, "The Indian government has offered to assist US citizens who want to depart Yemen for Djibouti. This potentially includes flights out of Sana'a and ships from Aden. US citizens wishing to take advantage of this opportunity should contact first secretary Raj Kopal at the Indian Embassy in Sana'a"
The message also said, "The next flights from Sana'a are scheduled to depart early on April 7. The Department of State cautions that US citizens should consider carefully the risks of traveling to or within Sana'a and Aden in order to board evacuation transport given security conditions in both cities."
The Economic Times commented that this was a surprising move since the US "has a strong naval presence in the area as well as an air force base in West Asia. France also has its navy in the region to counter piracy".
On Monday, while 574 Indians were evacuated from Sann'a by national carrier Air India, which did three sorties, another group of 479 was rescued from Al Hudaydah by INS Mumbai.