IAF evacuates 156 civilians from South Sudan
New Delhi, Jul 15 (Agencies): The first batch of 156 people evacuated from war-torn South Sudan arrived in India on Friday morning on board an Indian Air Force transport aircraft.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster, from South Sudan's capital city Juba with Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh escorting the evacuees, touched down at Thiruvanathapuram first en route to Delhi to allow those from Kerala and Tamil Nadu to disembark.
”The flight from South Sudan has landed in Delhi. My colleague Shri Vijay Goyal is at the airport to receive them,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted later.
There were over 550 Indians in Juba and another 150 in areas where the oil wells are located.
The United Nations had said Thursday it plans to move non-critical staff out of the country after an eruption of violence, and has received reports accusing President Salva Kiir’s troops of targeting UN staff and foreign aid workers amid the fighting.
MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said on Thursday the aim is to evacuate all the Indian nationals who have expressed their interest in leaving.
Several Indians, after registering with the MEA for leaving South Sudan, refused to return, despite an appeal by Swaraj on Twitter asking them to move out.
”When we landed, 156 came out with us. There were 30-40 people who had already booked their tickets when the commercial flights started and 300 people did not want to be evacuated due to their business concerns and other activities. There are nine women and three children among those evacuated,” Singh told reporters at Thiruvanathapuram airport.
”After fighting broke out in Juba and its outskirts, our aim was to evacuate our people who were in danger. As per our information, there were 550 plus people in Juba itself with another 150 Indians in areas where the oil wells are,” he said.
Fighting between rival troops began a week ago in Juba, which has been calm since Monday evening when Kiir and Riek Machar, a former rebel leader and now vice-president, ordered their respective forces to cease hostilities.
UN peacekeepers have been deployed in South Sudan since the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011. There are currently some 13,500 troops and police on the ground. India has about 2300 troops and a handful of police officers in the UNMISS or UN Mission in South Sudan.