6,000 stranded Indians desperate to return from Iran

Indian protesters demand evacuation from Iran during a protest in front of the Indian embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)
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Updated 14 March 2020

6,000 stranded Indians desperate to return from Iran

  • Indian nationals protesting in front of their embassy in Tehran demand evacuation
  • Protesters worry prolonged stay increases their risk of infection

PATNA: Kayvann Shah has been camping outside the Indian embassy in Tehran for more than two weeks, waiting for his government to evacuate him and thousands of others from coronavirus-hit Iran.
Over 6,000 Indians have been stranded in Iran. Some of them joined Shah in protest, demanding that they be airlifted from the country where the coronavirus death toll has surged past 500.
“I have been in Iran for the last 20 days and since March 2 I have been visiting the Indian embassy in Tehran, requesting them to help me and my parents reach India, but no action has been taken so far. They just tell us to wait and be in touch through email,” Shah told Arab News from Tehran on Friday.




An Indian national protests in front of India's embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)

The dry fruit merchant from Mumbai said he was on a business trip when New Delhi decided to suspend all international flights and restrict entry of people from the coronavirus-affected countries.
“My parents are senior citizens and they need to be away from the country where coronavirus has struck badly, but the Indian government seems to be not caring for us,” Shah said, adding that even China has evacuated its citizens from Iran.
Vishnu and Dhiraj, who are protesting with Shah in front of the embassy, are also in despair.
“Indian government is behaving as if we are not Indians!” Vishnu told Arab News from Tehran.




Indian protesters demand evacuation from Iran during a protest in front of the Indian embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)

On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told the parliament that the government was testing samples taken from the citizens in Iran and would soon operate a limited number of commercial flights to evacuate them.
He said the coronavirus crisis is a serious issue, over which New Delhi is in touch with Iranian authorities.
“As per available information, there are over 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran,” he said, adding a team of six health officials was sent to Tehran from India last week to collect the blood samples of the Iran-stranded nationals for testing.
“The first batch of 108 samples was received in India on March 7, and 58 Indian pilgrims who tested negative were repatriated,” the minister said.
However, according to the protesters, the testing process is slow and it would take months for them to be repatriated. “We are getting frustrated,” Shah said.
“Why can’t New Delhi evacuate us first and quarantine us in India as the Chinese are doing. The longer we are in Iran, the higher becomes the chance of us getting infected by the virus.”
According to government data, 81 cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in India.
Many state governments have shut down schools, theaters and colleges, and banned mass gatherings. New Delhi has also postponed the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the world’s most lucrative international cricket competitions. 


Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

Updated 7 min 48 sec ago

Philippines probes deadly police shooting of soldiers

  • Plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of ‘bomb makers and suicide bombers’ from the Abu Sayyaf militant group

MANILA: Philippine authorities are investigating the deaths of four soldiers shot by police in the country’s restive south, with the defense minister vowing Thursday to “get to the bottom” of the incident.
The plainclothes soldiers were in pursuit of “bomb makers and suicide bombers” from the Abu Sayyaf militant group when they were attacked by police in the Muslim-majority province of Sulu on Monday, the army has said.
Army chief Gilbert Gapay has accused the nine officers involved of murdering the men, while Philippine National Police has described the shooting as a “misencounter.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the shootings were “a very unfortunate incident,” adding that the dead soldiers “were just doing their jobs.”
“We don’t want this to escalate. We will get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The country’s National Bureau of Investigation was probing the incident, and Lorenzana said the findings should be released soon.
The army has accused the police of firing on the soldiers even after they identified themselves as members of the military.
The officers have been detained while the investigation is under way, said Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano.
President Rodrigo Duterte will visit police and military commanders in the south, his spokesman Harry Roque said, without specifying when.
Abu Sayyaf is based in the south and has engaged in bombings as well as kidnappings of Western tourists and missionaries for ransom since the early 1990s.
They also have ties to Daesh militants seeking to set up a caliphate in Southeast Asia.