New Delhi, Apr 1: 349 Indians today reached Djibouti after being evacuated on a Navy vessel from strife-torn Yemen's Aden city late last night and will fly to Mumbai soon.
Evacuation took place after India got permission to dock its offshore patrol vessel INS Sumitra at the Aden harbour as the government launched a massive air and sea operation, christened "Operation Raahat', to bring back its over 4,000 nationals in Yemen.
INS Sumitra, which has been deployed for anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden since March 11, was the first to undertake evacuation from Yemen.
The ship was re-deployed off the Port of Aden on March 30 and thereafter entered Aden Harbour last evening. It waited for hours to get local clearances as heavy fighting was reported in the city. While the ship has self-defence weapons, it cannot protect itself against multiple hand-held weapons or shoulder fired missiles.
"The ship evacuated 349 Indians from Aden.... On disembarkation of these personnel at Djibouti, the ship is scheduled to return to Aden to undertake further evacuation, if required," a statement by the Navy said. Defence sources said the vessel has docked at Djibouti and Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh (Retd) will interact with the people there. Indian Navy ships Mumbai and Tarkash also sailed from Mumbai on March 30 as part of Operation Raahat.
The ships will escort two passenger vessels, Kavaratti and Corals, through the piracy risk area off the Coast of Somalia. These passenger vessels had sailed from Kochi on March 30 to Djibouti. The two warships will, thereafter, be available for evacuation of Indian nationals from Yemeni ports, as required.
The evacuated Indians will be flown to Mumbai today in Indian Air Force's two C17 Globemasters. The first one is expected to land in Mumbai at around 8 PM IST.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded Yemen's Shiite rebels for a sixth day yesterday, destroying missiles and weapons depots and for the first time using warships to bomb the rebel-held airport and eastern outskirts of the port city of Aden.