Some 14 Indian nationals have been set free after being detained in Yemen's capital Sanaa since February. The Indian Embassy in Djibouti confirmed their release on Saturday and made arrangements for their return home. The Indian Embassy in Sanaa relocated to the East African country across the Gulf of Aden in 2015 when the war commenced.
The 14 were sailors and part of a crew of 20 including five Bangladeshi nationals and an Egyptian. They were disowned by their Oman-based employer following their arrest after their fleet of three commercial ships carrying 4-wheel vehicles set out from Oman on 3 February and were supposed to reach Saudi Arabia in just over two weeks. However on 12 February the ships were caught up in rough weather in the Gulf of Aden, causing one of the ships to sink.
The 14 Indian nationals who were under long detention in Sana'a have been released today. The Embassy had been in constant contact with them. Our local Embassy offiicial in Sana'a is making arrangements for their safe return to India. pic.twitter.com/C082x6EBNi
— India in Djibouti (@indiaindjibouti) November 28, 2020
According to the Mumbai Mirror, the crew unknowingly anchored the remaining ships in war-torn Yemen. Within the hour they were noticed by the Yemeni coast guard, arrested and taken to the port of Salif, which is under the control of the Houthi-led government.
After four days of interrogation they were then moved to a hotel in Sanaa and locked up. "The ordeal we faced in the first two months was the worst," one of the former captives told the Mirror. They were reportedly locked up in five hotel rooms and refused access to their families or any kind of legal or diplomatic aid during their incarceration.
During their captivity, the crew witnessed the horrors of the Saudi-led coalition's war on Yemen seeing air strikes from their windows including a "building being reduced to rubble in an explosion".
In August they received their mobile phones by their captors which were confiscated when they were arrested. "We contacted our families and our employer first. Since there is no Indian embassy in Yemen, we began emailing the external affairs ministry for help," said another former captive.
Last month Sunil Manjarekar, a renowned Indian businessman based in Dubai, was informed by a family friend of one of the sailors and contacted a former Yemeni ambassador to negotiate with the Houthis while also informing India's external affairs ministry. Eventually the Indian embassy in Djibouti got involved and helped arrange the release of all 20 crew members. They are expected to fly to Dubai and will then be repatriated to their respective countries.