NEW DELHI:India was on Tuesday scrambling to confirm reports that about 20 Indians were killed in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition that targeted fuel smugglers in port Hodeidah, Yemen.
Saba news agency, backed by Houthi rebels — the anti government militants who are now being targeted by the coalition— first reported that 22 Indians were killed in an airstrike on a vessel near Hodeidah. Reuters later reported that the airstrike took place in the waters near al-Khokha, some distance from Hodeidah.
In Hodeidah, there are about 20 Indians who mainly work at the port, university and factory premises, said two Indians who spoke to Express over phone. One of them, a long-term resident of Hodeidah, confirmed that none of the Indians had been hurt. The airstrike was reportedly against a vessel that tried to break the blockade at port Hodeidah imposed by the Saudi-led coalition. The vessel, which reportedly had a largely Indian crew, was probably trying to smuggle diesel, as Yemen is facing severe fuel shortage due to the blockade.
There has been no electricity in Hodeidah city for the last nine days, with diesel generators being the only life-saver, said another Indian who spoke to Express. He also confirmed that none of the Indians living in Hodeidah were harmed. With the Indian embassy in Yemen relocated to nearby Djibouti, India was also trying to get information. Till late night, there was no confirmation about the accuracy of the reports.
Although later, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup ascertained the facts about the reports.