Bodies of six out of seven Indians missing after two boats carrying 21 people came under aerial bombardment in Yemen on Tuesday have been found, the external affairs ministry said on Friday.
Media reports, quoting residents and fishermen, had initially claimed at least 20 Indian nationals were killed in air strikes by Saudi-led coalition forces on fuel smugglers at Yemen's Hodeidah port. The MEA disputed the reports later on Wednesday and said 14 people were alive and seven people were missing.
On Friday, the MEA said: “It is now regrettably informed that late at night on September 10, the bodies of six of the missing persons present on the two boats were recovered and were brought to the military hospital. The families of the deceased have been informed, and their verbal consent has been taken for appropriate funeral rites to be performed today in Hodeidah as per religious practices.”
“Of the remaining 15 Indians on the two boats, 14 are safe in Hodeidah… One person is still missing, and the mission is working with the local authorities and contacts to ascertain his whereabouts,” the MEA added.
India does not have an Embassy in Yemen which was shut down in April after evacuation of its nationals.
The Saudi-led alliance, made up mainly of Gulf Arab countries, recently increased air strikes on Sanaa and other parts of Yemen, when a Houthi missile attack killed at least 60 Saudi, Bahraini and United Arab Emirates soldiers at a military camp east of Sanaa.
They were part of a force preparing to assault the capital, which the Iranian-allied Houthis seized last September. The attack was the deadliest yet for Gulf soldiers in the war and may herald a turning point as Saudi-allied countries appear to be committing to a ground war they had so far avoided.
Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV reported that the number of forces deployed by the alliance had risen to 10,000. A Yemeni military official denied any foreign reinforcements had arrived last Tuesday and a source close to the exiled Yemeni government, now based in Riyadh, said he believed the number of foreign troops reported by al Jazeera might be exaggerated.
(With inputs from Reuters)