Yemen: Seven Indians Missing After Saudi-Led Airstrike

Adeel Shah
150909-IN-YEMEN-620 Smoke billows from buildings after reported air-strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on a police academy in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 8, 2015.

Indian authorities said Wednesday that seven Indian nationals were missing after Saudi-led airstrikes hit boats near a port in Yemen a day earlier.

A statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) followed several media reports on Tuesday that at least 20 Indians had been killed in air strikes targeting “fuel smugglers” at a Yemeni port.

“We have seen media reports about the death of Indian nationals in Yemen. Indian Embassy officials in Djibouti are in touch with local contacts and we have ascertained that there were two boats, one of which was plying between Berbera (Somalia) and Mokha (Yemen),” MEA spokesman Vikas Swarup said in the statement.

“The boats came under aerial bombardment in the afternoon of 8 September. The boats were carrying a total of 20 Indian crew members of which 13 are alive and 7 are reported missing.”

Swarup added that the government was in contact with authorities in Yemen, and officials were trying to get more details about the incident, including the identities of the Indian nationals.

Yemeni coast guard officials said Tuesday that a Saudi-led coalition attacked more than five boats off the Yemeni coast in airstrikes, according to the Associated Press. It wasn't immediately clear if the two incidents were the same.

“Soon after the media reported about the strike, the Indian government contacted the authorities in Yemen,” a senior MEA official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

“Since we have no diplomatic presence in Yemen currently, our officials in Djibouti are trying to get more details.”

Air strikes condemned

The Indian embassy in Yemen was closed in April, after violence erupted in the country.

The Indian government then launched a massive rescue operation and evacuated around 6,000 Indians living there.

The impoverished country is torn between Houthi rebels, allied with army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and forces loyal to exiled President Abed RabboMansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in March, AP reported.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of mainly Gulf nations fighting the Houthis, who took control of the capital, Sanaa, last September, then spread across Yemen.

The conflict has killed over 2,100 civilians, the United Nations says.

In India, news of the airstrikes on its citizens outraged political parties and other organizations.

Sonia Gandhi, president of the main opposition Congress party, expressed “shock” and condemned the attacks.

“She hoped the Indian government was taking adequate measures to ensure immediate relief, and would do the needful in evacuating Indians from the strife zone,” a party statement quoted Gandhi as saying.

T. Peter, president of the National Fishworker's Forum, also condemned the attack and urged the Indian government to take the issue seriously.

"I heard news, which said that 20 Indian fishermen died in the Saudi Arabia air attack. We condemn the killing of innocent fishermen. I request the Indian Government to take this issue seriously and also the U.N. (United Nations) should raise this issue at the international level," he told ANI news agency.


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