‘Release 7 Indian sailors held captive since Jan 2’ India messages Yemen’s Houthis

Updated on Jan 28, 2022 10:48 PM IST

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthis has described the UAE-flagged vessel’s seizure by Yemen’s Houthi rebels as an act of “armed piracy”, and India and the United Arab Emirates have demanded the release of the crew.

A view of a ship seized by Yemen's Houthi rebels off the Yemen's Red Sea coast in a frame grab from video handed out by the Houthi's media centre on January 3, 2022. (Houthi Media Office via REUTERS)
A view of a ship seized by Yemen's Houthi rebels off the Yemen's Red Sea coast in a frame grab from video handed out by the Houthi's media centre on January 3, 2022. (Houthi Media Office via REUTERS)

NEW DELHI: India on Friday said the seven Indian sailors taken captive by Yemen’s Houthi rebels when they seized a UAE-flagged merchant vessel on January 2 are safe and reiterated the demand for their immediate release.

Eleven crew members, including the Indian nationals, of the vessel Rwabee were held by the Houthis when they seized the vessel Rwabee in the Red Sea. The rebels claimed the vessel was carrying “military supplies” and entered Yemeni waters off the coast of Hodeidah “without authorisation”.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Houthis described the vessel’s seizure as an act of “armed piracy”, and India and the United Arab Emirates had demanded the release of the crew.

“As per the latest information received from the shipping company based in the UAE as well as from other sources, the seven Indian sailors are safe, in good health and are being provided regular meals,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a virtual weekly media briefing.

“However, their captors have not been allowing them to communicate with their families,” he said in response to a question on the status of the seven Indian sailors.

The Indian government is in touch with multiple sources, including the UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement or UNMHA, to “enquire about the safety and well-being of our sailors as well as to reinforce our message to the Houthis that our sailors should be released at the earliest”, Bagchi said.

The civil observer mission, with headquarters at Al-Hudaydah, has facilitated dialogue between Yemeni parties and also looks at ways to ensure the full implementation of the Hudaydah Agreement, including a ceasefire and redeployment of forces.

The hostilities occurring more than 3,000 kilometres away have had consequences for India twice this month. Besides the seizure of the Rwabee, two Indians were killed and two more injured in a drone attack by the Houthis on Abu Dhabi on January 17. The attack was carried out in apparent retaliation for the UAE’s role in the coalition fighting the Houthis.

The rebels have also threatened to expand their operations against the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are home to nearly six million Indians.

Bagchi said external affairs minister S Jaishankar condemned the “terror attack” of January 17 in the strongest terms during a telephone conversation with his UAE counterpart.

“Subsequently, the UN Security Council, of which we are currently a member, in a press statement condemned in the strongest terms the heinous terror attack in Abu Dhabi...on January 17. We are closely monitoring developments,” he said.

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