At least 300 Indians have been left stranded as one of Africa’s oldest civil wars reignited on July 7 in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
Fleeing the fight between the heavily armed rival factions divided on ethnic lines, Indians have taken refuge in various locations, including the Embassy of India.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter that India planned to evacuate its nationals trapped in Juba. “I am aware of the developments in South Sudan. Please register yourself with the Indian embassy and do not panic,” she said, even as the Indian embassy created a WhatsApp group to stay in touch with all Indian citizens and to monitor the situation.
Srikumar Menon, Indian Ambassador to South Sudan, told that all Indians were safe in Juba, but added: “There is a lot of gunfight and intermittent shelling in the capital. We are also in touch with other diplomatic missions and will coordinate on evacuation as the opportunity arises but as of now the airport is closed and roadblocks [controlled by rival factions] are hindering secure movement.”
Mr. Menon pointed out that law and order had broken down; even the U.N. peacekeeping contingent was busy defending its bases. “There are 2,500 Indian soldiers in the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and nearly 150 of them are stationed in Juba, but they are unable to help,” he said.
Among those stranded are over 30 officers from the Maharashtra police cadre, currently posted with the UNMISS.
These include Deputy Commissioner of Police Sheela Sail, who served in Mumbai before being sent to Sudan, along with four other junior officers.
While the Mumbai Police have not received any official communication from the Central government, officials have found out that they are all safe.
During the gunfight of Monday morning, a number of Indian nationals reached out to Ms. Swaraj on Twitter.