"A Lot of Close Calls": Trapped in Yemen, Calif. Man Is Finally Home - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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"A Lot of Close Calls": Trapped in Yemen, Calif. Man Is Finally Home



    Bay Area Man Escapes Yemen, Returns Home

    The airport in Yemen's capital was bombed and most of the ports shut down as violence continues to escalate. Kimberly Tere reports on a man who says he is lucky to have been able to get out and get home. (Published Tuesday, April 7, 2015)

    A Bay Area man is finally home after a harrowing journey through a country sliding toward civil war.

    It took Mokhtar Alkhanshali almost four days by boat and plane to make it home from Yemen. He says something has to be done to get American civilians out of that country.

    Alkhanshali works in Yemen — his jobs involves helping coffee farmers cultivate their product and access western markets. He was in the country’s capitol ten days ago when a Saudi led air-bombing campaign began and sectarian violence broke out.

    “It felt like Armageddon,” he said. “All hell broke loose — planes dropping bombs.”

    Hundreds have been killed, including more than 70 children.

    With aircraft you don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s gonna hit you because you can’t see them. It was horrible and I said, ‘you know what? I got leave here.’”

    But with the airport bombed and most ports shut down Alkhanshali says he knew options for leaving were limited, especially because the US had said it had no plans to evacuate its residents in the country.

    “We were trapped in Yemen,” Alkhanshali said.

    Eventually Alkhanshali said he was able to make a seven hour journey to the Port of Mocha where he took a boat to Africa, and then Amsterdam from where he boarded a plane back to San Francisco.

    “The whole journey had a lot of close calls,” he said.

    Alkhanshali says he’s happy to be home but worried about family and friends he left behind.

    “I got lucky. I got very lucky,” he said.

    Last week, the Bay Area Yemeni community mourned the death of one of their own. Jamal al-Labani, who lived in Oakland for about 15 years, was killed by shrapnel during heavy rebel tank fire last Tuesday.

    Al-Labani is an American citizen who went to Yemen in February to try and bring his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter to the United States.