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IOM airlifts foreigners out of wartorn Yemen

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19:28 CEST+02:00
The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration says it has flown a first planeload of foreign nationals out of Yemen and aimed to continue evacuating foreigners stranded in the conflict-torn country.

"The operation was a success and paves the way for continuing the evacuations of more than 16,000 third country nationals who are stranded in Yemen," IOM said in a statement issued on Sunday.
   
Spokesman Joel Millman told AFP that 143 passengers had been on Sunday's flight from Sanaa to Khartoum, including nationals from Sudan, Ethiopia, the United States, Nigeria, South Korea, Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, and several European countries.
   
The organization said 38 countries had asked it to help evacuate their nationals stranded amid the spiralling conflict in Yemen.
   
IOM said it had been working for more than a week to get flight clearance for the chartered plane and that some of the passengers had been waiting at Sanaa airport for days.
   
Around two dozen foreigners who had been cleared for evacuation had, meanwhile, not showed up at the airport in time for the flight, which landed in Khartoum around 3 pm (noon GMT).
   
"Hopefully we'll be a little more organised tomorrow (Monday), when we do our next flight," Saba Malme, IOM's operations coordinator in Yemen said in the statement.
   
IOM said it had been "inundated with calls from migrants, private citizens and family members of people believed to be stranded in Yemen."
   
It said it had identified about 16,000 persons who urgently need international travel assistance, including around 5,000 who are believed to be ready to travel immediately.
   
Mohammed Abdiker, head of IOM's emergency operations, said the Geneva-based organization had been negotiating with Sudan and Ethiopia to set up "a humanitarian air bridge".
   
"We expect after the first flights began, we would have by next week several rotations between Khartoum and Sanaa daily," he said, adding that the organization also aimed to run flights between Sanaa and Addis-Ababa.
   
Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels have seized swathes of territory in Yemen since they entered Sanaa in September 2014, forcing the government to flee.
   
Yemen slid deeper into turmoil after a Saudi-led air campaign began on March 26th to push back the rebels' advance after they forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

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