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National
India asks its citizens in Yemen to leave the war-torn country
26-03-2015

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday issued an advisory asking all its nationals to leave Yemen immediately given the ‘fragile’ security situation in the conflict-hit country. “We are urging and advising our nationals to leave the country immediately through available commercial means,” Spokesperson in the external affairs ministry said.

While noting that it was the third such advisory by the government, he hoped that the Indians, most of whom are nurses in Yemen, will understand the “seriousness” of the situation and will return. He added that the government was working with the nurses for their return while putting number of Indians in Yemen at 3,000-3,500 who are living in various provinces including Sanaa.

Yemen is witnessing attacks by Shia militiamen on the president and other state figures. The rising unrest has fuelled long time divisions in Yemen, where the government, Huthis, southern separatists, powerful Sunni tribes and the local al-Qaida branch are all vying for influence.

The Indian Embassy in Sanaa had set up helplines to assist the Indians.

Yemen’s embattled President fled his palace in Aden for an undisclosed location on Wednesday as Shia rebels offered cash bounty for his capture and abducted his defence minister.

President Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi left just hours after the rebels’ own television station said they seized an air base where US troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. That air base is only 60 kilometres away from Aden, the port city where Hadi had established a temporary capital.

Witnesses said they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles on Wednesday leaving Hadi’s palace, located at the top of a hill in Aden overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Presidential officials said Hadi was in an operations room overseeing his forces’ response. They declined to say where that facility was located. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorised to brief journalists.

The advance of the Shia rebels, known as Houthis, threatens to plunge the Arab world’s poorest country into a civil war that could draw in its Gulf neighbours. Already, Hadi had asked the United Nations to authorise a foreign military intervention in the country.

Yemen’s state television broadcaster, controlled by Houthis, made an offer of some $100,000 for Hadi’s capture. Officials meanwhile said that the country’s defence minister Maj Gen Mahmoud al-Subaihi and his top aide were arrested in the southern city of Lahj, where fighting with Houthi forces was ongoing, before they were transferred to Sanaa.

Already, military officials said militias and military units loyal to Hadi had ‘fragmented,’ speeding the rebel advance. They said the rebels were fighting Hadi’s allied forces on five different fronts on Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdel-Salam, a spokesman for the Houthis, said that their forces were not aiming to ‘occupy’ the south. “They will be in Aden in few hours,” Abdel-Salam told the Houthis’ satellite Al-Masirah news channel.

Earlier, Al-Masirah reported that the Houthis and allied fighters had secured the al-Annad air base, the country’s largest. It claimed the base had been looted by both al-Qaida fighters and troops loyal to Hadi.

The reported Houthi takeover of the base took place after hours-long clashes between rival forces around the base. The US recently evacuated some 100 soldiers, including Special Forces commandos, from the base after al-Qaida briefly seized a nearby city. Britain also evacuated soldiers.