V.K. Singh leads mission to evacuate Indians…

V.K. Singh leads mission to evacuate Indians from South Sudan

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh on Thursday left for South Sudan leading the government’s ‘Operation Sankat Mochan’ to evacuate Indians from the African country which has been hit by violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

“#OperationSankatMochan begins at crack of dawn. Two C 17 aircraft leave for Juba with @Gen_VKSingh on board,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that Singh would be leading the evacuation mission accompanied by by Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry, Joint Secretary Satbir Singh and Director Anjani Kumar.

She said India’s Ambassador in South Sudan Srikumar Menon and his team were organising this operation on the ground.

There are around 500 Indians in the country.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Monday evening ordered a ceasefire after days of heavy fighting between government troops and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar in Juba.

President Kiir directed all commanders to cease all hostilities, control their forces and protect civilians, Information Minister Michael Makuei said in a televised speech on the state broadcaster SSTV.

The ceasefire took effect from 6 p.m. on Monday and any member of the Machar-led forces who surrendered must also be protected, Makuei said.

The latest bout of violence started on July 7 after a localised gunfight outside Kiir’s residence in Juba when he was holding a meeting with Machar.

The Indian embassy in Juba said in a statement on Wednesday the aircraft were expected to land at 11 a.m. and Indian nationals with valid travel documents would be allowed to board.

The return flights would be only up to New Delhi, the statement said.

The UN has said 36,000 South Sudanese civilians have fled their homes due to the fighting.

Embassies and aid organisations in South Sudan were moving to evacuate staff from Juba amid the tenuous ceasefire.

The US military in Africa said it has sent 40 additional soldiers to Juba to help secure American personnel and facilities in the war-torn city, Fox News reported on Wednesday.

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