India evacuates kin of diplomats from Syria

Families are expected to return by Wednesday

India has started evacuating families of its diplomats posted in Syria in the wake of escalating strife between rebels and forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s Government in Damascus.

The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that members of the families of diplomats posted in the Indian embassy in Syrian capital Damascus were being brought back home. Most of them returned to India on Monday and Tuesday. The rest will be back by Wednesday.

New Delhi on last Friday issued an advisory asking Indian citizens to avoid travelling to Syria in view of the “prevailing situation” in the West Asian country.

Joint Secretary (External Publicity) and spokesperson of the Ministry of External
Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said most Indian citizens living in Syria had left the country.
“Less than 100 Indian citizens are still in Syria. They, too, have been advised to leave the country,” he said.

Akbaruddin added that New Delhi’s envoy in Damascus V P Haran and other officials in the embassy had been in touch with the remaining Indian citizens in Syria.

Sources said the Centre was monitoring the situation in Syria and, if necessary, would also ask the ambassador and 12 other diplomats posted in the Indian embassy in Damascus to leave the country.

Two Indian pilgrims were killed in an explosion on the Syria-Iraq border on May 26 last, prompting New Delhi to issue an advisory to avoid all non-essential travel to the West Asian country.

Amid fierce clashes between the Syrian Government forces and the rebels, President Bashar al-Assad came under intense international pressure to step down. Though Assad has not yet given up and forces loyal to him even purportedly threatened to use chemical and biological weapons in case of an external intervention to help the rebels, speculation is rife that international pressure might ultimately lead to a regime change.

According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in United Kingdom, while the toll in the escalating war was 116 on Monday, at least 14 were killed on Tuesday, including eight civilians in Damascus and commercial hub Aleppo.

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