The United States and the United Kingdom announced this Sunday (23/04) that they managed to withdraw the employees of their embassies in the capital, Khartoum, from Sudan, while other countries are also trying to help their diplomats and citizens to flee the conflict that has devastated the country for nine years. consecutive days.
Several European governments announced evacuation operations on Sunday, amid deadly fighting between rival generals fighting for control of Africa’s third-largest country.
Fierce battles between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group – which have included tank battles in densely populated Khartoum and air strikes launched by fighter jets – have killed more than 400 people and injured thousands. Fighting continued on Sunday, with sounds of gunfire echoing across Khartoum and Sudanese military aircraft roaring in the skies, witnesses said.
Get inside: Understand the conflict that erupted in Sudan
Announcing that the US military “conducted an operation” to remove US government officials from the country, President Joe Biden condemned the violence, saying it was “inconceivable and must stop”.
Just over 100 US special operations troops participated in the rescue of less than 100 people, including embassy employees and their families. Three Chinook helicopters flew from Djibouti, a small country in the Horn of Africa, to Khartoum, where they remained on the ground for less than an hour. Those rescued were taken to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia.
It is estimated that thousands of US citizens still remain in Sudan, including dual nationals.
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Later, it was the turn of the United Kingdom to announce the rescue of employees of its embassy. “British armed forces have completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan, amid a significant escalation of violence and threats to embassy staff,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
European countries rescue civilians
Although US officials have warned that it is still too dangerous to carry out government-coordinated mass civilian rescue operations, other countries are already launching efforts to evacuate their citizens and diplomats.
The German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) began evacuation operations in Khartoum on Sunday, the country’s Ministry of Defense announced.
“The Defense and Foreign Ministries are jointly coordinating an ongoing evacuation operation for German nationals [no Sudão] in consultation with our partners,” the ministry said on Twitter. “Our aim is to remove as many citizens as possible from Khartoum in this dangerous situation. As far as possible, we will also take EU nationals and others with us.”
The French Foreign Ministry, for its part, said that a “rapid evacuation operation” had been launched and that European citizens and citizens of “allied partner countries” would also be assisted, without providing further details.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, is evacuating its citizens with the help of Jordan, said the Dutch Foreign Minister, Wopke Hoekstra, promising “to do everything possible to get the Dutch as quickly and safely as possible”. Earlier, the country had already announced that it had sent two Air Force Hercules C-130 planes and an Airbus A330 to Jordan for the operation.
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Italy has sent military jets to Djibouti in preparation for the rescue of 140 Italian nationals in Sudan, many of whom have already taken refuge in the Italian embassy.
For his part, the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, announced the sending of aircraft and special forces to his ally Egypt to rescue 120 Greek and Cypriot citizens in Khartoum. Many of them have sought shelter in recent days in a Greek Orthodox cathedral in the Sudanese capital.
Turkey began rescue operations at dawn on Sunday, evacuating some of its estimated 600 citizens by land from two districts of Khartoum and the town of Wad Medani, south of the capital. But plans were derailed after “explosions” near a mosque designated as one of the meeting points, the Turkish embassy said on Twitter.
Asian countries have also launched rescue missions for their citizens, with South Korea and Japan sending military aircraft to nearby allied countries.
Blocked airports and highways
Fighting between Sudan’s armed forces and the powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (FAR) has targeted and paralyzed the country’s main airport, turning some civilian aircraft into ruins and destroying at least one runway.
Other airports in the country also became inoperative amid the battles.
Overland travel through areas disputed by the warring parties has also become dangerous. Khartoum is located about 840 kilometers from the country’s main seaport, Port Sudan, on the Red Sea. Even so, some countries risked the journey.
Read more: Rival factions in Sudan ignore ceasefire deal
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia said it successfully rescued 157 people, including 91 Saudis and nationals of other countries.
Saudi state television broadcast footage of a large convoy of people traveling by car and bus from Khartoum to Port Sudan, where a navy ship transported the rescued across the Red Sea to the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The conflict that broke out in Sudan
Clashes between paramilitaries and government forces broke out in the streets of the capital, Khartoum, on April 16 and spread to other regions of the African country.
The fighting broke out after months of tensions between two rival military leaders. The Sudanese Armed Forces, under the command of General Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, and paramilitary units of the Rapid Support Forces (FAR), headed by Sovereign Council Vice-President Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, exchanged accusations of provoking the conflict.
Burhan and Hemedti were former allies who seized power in Sudan via a coup in 2021 but later fell into a bitter power struggle.
Remember: Millions take to the streets against military coup in Sudan
In Khartoum, a city of 5 million people, the conflict has left terrified civilians holed up in their homes, with the power virtually out in sweltering heat and the internet cut off for most residents.
The battles intensified in other parts of the country as well. In the Darfur region, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of El Fasher said its doctors were “overwhelmed” by the number of patients injured by gunfire, many of them children.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 420 people had died and more than 3,700 were wounded in fighting in Sudan, but the true death toll was believed to be even higher.
With information from AFP, AP, DPA and Reuters.