India on Wednesday said it looks forward to complete the mammoth operation of evacuating about 18,000 of its nationals from strife-torn Libya by Thursday.
Deploying aircraft and ships, India has already brought back about 14,000 Indian nationals from Libya as pro-Muammar Gaddafi forces fought pitched battles with anti-government rebels to gain control of key cities in the oil-rich nation.
"As scheduled, some 14,000 Indians have been evacuated from Libya, including about 1000 passengers who were flown back last evening and today morning, from Tripoli, on three Air India special flights," a Ministry of External Affairs statement said.
The Ministry is confident that by tomorrow almost all Indian nationals desirous of leaving Libya will be back home, it said.
As many as 2,400 persons are expected to reach India by tomorrow by eight special flights from Tripoli and Sebha in Libya and Alexandria in Egypt, the statement said.
Four Air India planes have left for Libya to ferry back nearly 1,000 people from Tripoli and 400 from Sebha today.
The last batch of some 550 persons in Tripoli and 450 in Sebha will be evacuated tomorrow.
Indian nationals from Sirte, Misrata, Benghazi and Kufrah have already been pulled out.
With 972 passengers on board, MV Scotia Prince had arrived in Alexandria last evening. 181 Indian nationals were brought back to Delhi from Alexandria by an IL-76 IAF aircraft this evening.
The remaining passengers were being ferried to Mumbai by three additional special Egypt Air flights this evening and early tomorrow morning, the Ministry said.
MV Red Star One returned to Malta this morning, with 150 Indian and other nationals. A special Jet Airways plane is bringing them to India later tonight, it said.
"Naval vessels INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore are already in the Mediterranean, just off the Libyan coast. The two ships have adequate carrying capacity but may not be pressed into service, given the successful air-bridge put in place between Libya and India since February 26."
Meanwhile, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said the government was making concerted efforts to evacuate all the Indians caught in the strife-torn country.
He said following incidents of violence, the emigration clearance for Indian workers for employment in Libya has been temporarily stopped with effect from February 21.
"Government is making concerted efforts to evacuate the Indian citizens caught in the strife-torn country by arranging special flights, and also ships and facilitating road movement to countries neighbouring Libya," he told Lok Sabha while replying to a question.
He said staff at Indian Missions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have been engaged in the evacuation exercise.