BEIJING (AP) — China said Tuesday that it had evacuated more than 500 of its citizens from Yemen amid the growing violence in the Middle Eastern country.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 449 Chinese nationals left Yemen Monday evening aboard Chinese naval ships. They were headed for Djibouti on the heels of an additional 122 who arrived in the Horn of Africa nation Sunday.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday that the 449 Chinese and six people of other unspecified nationalities who left the Yemeni coastal city of Al-Hodayda had arrived in Djibouti, which is located directly across the southern tip of the Red Sea from Yemen.
The ministry said the 571 Chinese will return home soon.
The three Chinese navy ships had been carrying out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters and were diverted to the port of Aden to carry out the evacuations, state media reported, marking only the second time Chinese military assets have been used in such a mission.
In 2011, China took the unprecedented step of dispatching one of its most sophisticated warships and military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens amid Libya's civil war.
No Chinese have been reported killed or injured in the fighting in Yemen that now threatens a potentially dangerous clash between U.S.-allied Arab states and Iran.
The official China Shipowners' Association said on its website that it had been notified that China was temporarily halting its participation in multinational patrols in the Gulf of Aden aimed at countering Somali pirates.
The notice said it wasn't clear when the patrols would resume, and Defense Ministry spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
China joined the patrols in December 2008 and has sent a total of 19 squadrons to maintain an unbroken presence in the area.