India evacuated more than 4,000 people from Yemen in April this year following an escalation in fighting between the government forces and the Shia rebels, but many thousands are still stuck in the Horn of Africa nation.
The raging battle for Yemen's control--effectively a turf war between the Shia Houthi rebels and the Sunni monarchs of the Arabian Gulf who want to reinstate the ousted regime--claimed its latest Indian casualties on Tuesday.
Initial reports said at least 20 Indians were killed in the Saudi Arabia-led coalition's air strikes on fuel smugglers at a Yemeni port.
Citing local residents and fishermen, news agencies including Reuters reported that the Indians were killed when planes from the Saudi-led alliance struck two boats in Red Sea at al-Khokha, a small port near Hodeidah.
However, on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that 13 of those reported killed were alive while seven were missing.
"Out of 20 crew members, 13 are alive and 7 are reported to be missing," ANI quoted MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup as saying.
The Indian government had undertaken a massive evacuation and closed its Yemeni embassy in April. However, several Indians are believed to be still left behind in the war-struck zone and are frequently getting caught up in the battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Thousands of Indian nationals staying in Najran, located on the Yemen-Saudi border, have also been facing the wrath of the ongoing war in the Middle Eastern nation. The town is mostly inhabited by nationals of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who work as labourers.
An estimated 30,000 Tamil workers have also become victims of frequent bombings in the area, according to The New Indian Express report on 14 May.
"Over the last week we have been hearing continuous bomb explosions very close to where we work. There are hearsay accounts about groups of labourers from different nations getting killed in the bombings. We want to return home or at least go to interior parts of this country. But agents who got us employment here are refusing to allow us to leave claiming there is nothing to worry," a labourer from Kanyakumari district had told TNIE over the phone.
"We heard that in one instance about eight women were killed in the bombing. In another instance, a worker from Pakistan was killed. But our employers here are trying to brush it aside and not allowing us to move out. Most of the victims are migrant workers like us," he added.
The Yemen crisis
The Yemen crisis sits on sectarian fault lines, worsened by a power struggle between Zaidi Shia rebels -- popularly known as Houthis -- and Sunni Muslims who support ousted president Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. While the Shias have a stronghold in North Yemen, Sunnis dominate South Yemen.
The country was ruled by a Sunni-dominated government before the Houthi rebels declared war in February this year and expelled President Hadi from the capital Sanaa. Hadi first tried to govern from Aden, but was later forced to flee to Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh in March.
The Houthis had started to revolt against the government in 2004, but it took a decisive turn only this year, leading to the crisis. As Houthis took control of most parts of the nation, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition with other Gulf countries and carried out several attacks on Yemen, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians, including both Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The crisis not only affected the Shias and Sunnis of the nation, but also thousands of Indians. India has maintained its historical and trade relationships with Yemen for ages now, as a result of which thousands of Indians have migrated to the Middle Eastern nation, particularly in South Yemen.
Coalition increases air strikes
The alliance of the Gulf Arab countries has increased air strikes on Yemen's capital Sanaa and other parts of the Middle Eastern country after at least 60 Saudi, Bahraini and United Arab Emirates soldiers were killed at a military camp in Sanaa in a Houthi missile attack on Friday. It was the deadliest strike on the Gulf soldiers by the rebels.
The coalition forces were preparing to launch an attack on Sanaa, which had been taken over by Iranian-allied Houthis in September last year.
Thousands of soldiers from the Gulf countries have been deployed in Yemen to wage war against the Houthi rebels in Sanaa. Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV reported that the number of forces deployed by the Gulf-alliance had risen to 10,000. Besides, 6,000 soldiers from Sudan in North Africa are also said to be joining them.
A news agency run by Yemeni government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Riyadh also said that 10,000 loyalist troops are preparing to launch an attack against the Houthis.
Although the Yemeni forces and Gulf soldiers pushed back the Houthis and took Aden and most of country's southern regions, the Houthi rebels continue to give them a stiff fight in northern regions.