PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The government has decided to evacuate the 3,000-odd Malaysian students in crisis-hit Egypt using commercial flights.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said instructions had been issued to book tickets for the students on any available commercial flight from last night.
"We have decided to bring back our students after getting the National Security Council (NSC)'s report on the situation in Egypt and on the advice of the council's advance team.
"We fear the situation there may escalate and take a turn for the worse. Our main priority is to ensure the safety of our students. "In this respect, we have started the operation to bring back students who have voluntarily agreed to come home," Najib said at a Hari Raya open house hosted by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa yesterday.
Egypt has been embroiled in turmoil after the country's military-backed government pressed on with its nationwide crackdown on protesters that had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people over the last week. Egypt's interim government was reported as saying that 79 people had been killed in clashes on Saturday, bringing the death toll during the past four days to nearly 900.
Najib said the government had started booking commercial flight tickets to bring students home via Amman and Istanbul, as well as from other countries, from last night.
He said the government would not deploy military planes as not only would it be logistically expensive and massive, but also time-consuming as it would take longer to get landing clearance from the different countries.
"The C-130 Hercules military transport has to make between two to three stops before it can reach Egypt and it will take time to get the special landing clearance from these countries," he said, adding that it would take several days to evacuate all the students.