China evacuates foreigners from Yemen in first such operation

Yemeni protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Arab coalition against Huthi militia in the capital Sanaa on April 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

China evacuated 225 people from 10 different countries from war-ravaged Yemen, Beijing said Friday, an unprecedented move underscoring the country's growing global reach. The Chinese missile frigate Linyi brought them to Djibouti after two weeks of fighting between rebel forces and a Saudi-led coalition that has seen hundreds killed. The evacuees included 176 people from Pakistan, said foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, with the remainder from Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen. She said it was "a humanitarian relief action" taken at the request of "relevant countries". "It is also the first time the Chinese government has taken special action to help with the evacuation of foreign citizens in dangerous areas," she told reporters at a regular briefing. "It fully demonstrates the spirit of internationalism and humanitarianism of the Chinese side." The official Xinhua news agency said this week that China rescued six foreign nationals from Yemen along with hundreds of its citizens who were being brought out, but Hua's remarks indicate that the latest operation was Beijing's first dedicated to foreigners. The People's Liberation Army Navy had previously evacuated more than 500 Chinese from the country. China has become more involved in humanitarian relief as its global influence has grown. Beijing has taken a role in the fight against Ebola, sending hundreds of medical workers to West Africa, where it also built a treatment centre. It also sent a hospital ship -- the 300-bed Peace Ark -- to typhoon-ravaged Philippines in November 2013, although only after being widely criticised for the scale of its initial financial response. In 2011, more than 35,000 Chinese were evacuated from Libya during the unrest that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Last year Beijing moved more than 730 citizens out of the same country in light of the worsening security situation.

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