Air India gets nod to fly into Sana'a

"We hope to bring atleast 500 more Indians out of Yemen today", says MoS for Overseas Indian Affairs Gen (Retd) V.K. Singh.

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:54 am IST

Published - April 03, 2015 09:55 am IST - NEW DELHI

Evacuated Indians from Yemen boarding the India Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft at Djibouti.

Evacuated Indians from Yemen boarding the India Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft at Djibouti.

In a big relief for Indians stuck inside Yemen, the government has received permission to fly two Air India planes into the capital, Sana’a on Friday.

Confirming the news to The Hindu , Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs Gen. (Retd.) V.K. Singh, said that the two flights will try to make at least two trips to transport passengers from Sana’a to Djibouti, where he is overseeing and coordinating their return to India. “We have been stuck for two days because of the lack of permission to land in Sana’a,” He told The Hindu , “If all goes well, we hope to bring at least 500 more Indians out of Yemen today.”

The two Air India planes have been on standby at Muscat airport, waiting for clearance from Saudi Arabian authorities, who control the airspace over the capital and have been conducting regular airstrikes on Yemen. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Saudi King Salman earlier this week, but permission had been held up while the bombing continued. India has also been evacuating passengers through the sea route to Djibouti, with INS Sumitra rescuing passengers from Aden and Al Hudaydah, including at least 11 foreign nationals, of “South Asian and African nationality,” said officials.

Significantly scaling up evacuation efforts, the armed forces plan to bring back around 850 passengers to India by late night on Friday in two C-17 Globemasters and an Air India Boeing 777 aircraft.

Djibouti has become the focal point for all Indian evacuation efforts. Due to lack of a safe road passage out of the capital all nationals from Sana’a will be moved to Djibouti by air and then flown to India, officials informed.

According to Air Force officials, the first movement of around 550 Indians out of Sana’a will be done by two Air India A-321 aircraft stationed in Muscat and they are expected to leave for Djibouti around 2 pm on Friday. Another Air India aircraft, a Boeing 777 long-range plane that can typically carry between 300 and 450 passengers, has been sent from Mumbai to Djibouti.

The 300 people on board INS Sumitra, which is expected to reach Djibouti around 2 pm, will board the Boeing 777 while those coming from Sana’a in A-321s will transfer to the two C-17, officials said. While the AI-321s will shuttle between Sana’a and Djibouti, the two C-17s and AI-777 will fly to India.

Yemen on the brink

Who are fighting whom?

  • Houthis: The rebel group controls nine of 21 provinces now
  • Saudi-led coalition: Here are some of those who are participating and what they are deploying: Saudi Arabia: 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and some naval units UAE: 30 fighter jets Bahrain: 15 fighter jets Kuwait: 15 fighter jets Qatar: 10 fighter jets Jordan: 6 fighter jets Sudan: 3 fighter jets Egypt: naval and air forces involved.
  • Yemeni security forces: The military is now split as units that support Mr. Hadi, units that support the Houthis, and units that support a still-influential Saleh, who is in the Houthi camp for now
  • Popular Resistance Committees: Militia loyal to Hadi in his stronghold of south Yemen.
  • AQAP: Mr. Hadi and Houthis are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has staged several attacks in the country and is strong in the south. Active since 2009. AQAP has taken advantage of the power struggle.
  • IS: A new group of militants inspired by the Islamic State group has claimed major attacks, including suicide bombings which killed at least 142 people at Shia mosques in Sana’a.
  • U.S.: CIA drones have continued to target top AQAP leaders, but the campaign has suffered from Mr. Hadi’s absence. Last week, U.S. military advisers were withdrawn from a southern base as al-Qaeda militants seized a nearby city.

Who are the Houthis?

The Houthis are followers of the Shia Zaidi sect, the faith of around a third of Yemen’s population. Officially known as Ansarallah (the partisans of God), the group began as a movement preaching tolerance and peace in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s.

After some protests pitted it against the government, the group launched an insurgency in 2004 against the then ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that lasted till 2010. Their opponents view them as a proxy of Shia Iran. The group is hostile to the United States but has also vowed to eradicate al-Qaeda. They participated in the 2011 Arab Spring inspired revolution in Yemen that replaced Saleh with Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi.

Key dates to the Yemen conflict

  • September 21, 2014: Houthi rebels seize government and military sites in Sana’a after several days of fighting that killed more than 270 people. Rival groups sign a U.N.-brokered peace deal stipulating a Houthi withdrawal from the capital and formation of a new government.
  • October 9, 2014: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has declared war on the Houthis, claims an attack in Sana’a in which 47 are killed.
  • October 14, 2014: The Houthis seize the Red Sea port of Hodeida, 230 km west of Sana’a, then move toward the centre without opposition from government forces but face fierce resistance from AQAP and its tribal allies.
  • January 20, 2015: Houthis attack Mr. Hadi’s residence and seize the presidential palace, and the President and Prime Minister resign two days later.
  • February 6, 2015: The rebels announce they have dissolved Parliament and installed a presidential council to run the country. The United States and Gulf monarchies accuse Iran of backing the Houthis. In the south and southeast, authorities reject what they brand a coup attempt.
  • February 21, 2015: Mr. Hadi flees south to Aden after escaping from weeks under house arrest and urges the international community to “reject the coup,” rescinding his resignation and subsequently declaring Aden the temporary capital.
  • March 19, 2015: Clashes in which at least 11 are killed force the closure of the international airport in Aden and Mr. Hadi is moved to a more secure location after an air raid on the presidential palace there.
  • March 22, 2015: The Houthis advance southwards, seizing the airport and a nearby military base in Taez, north of Aden and a strategic entry point to Mr. Hadi’s stronghold. Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi says the rebels have moved south to combat Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
  • March 25, 2015: Mr. Hadi is again moved as rebel forces bear down on Aden, capturing a major airbase nearby just days after U.S. military personnel were evacuated from it.
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