HomeAfricaUS Military Evacuates Embassy Staff from Khartoum as Sudan Conflict Escalates

US Military Evacuates Embassy Staff from Khartoum as Sudan Conflict Escalates

The United States military has evacuated its embassy staff from Khartoum, Sudan, as fighting between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a heavily armed paramilitary group, entered a second week. The conflict has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded, with survivors grappling with shortages of electricity and food.

The RSF tweeted that it had coordinated with US Forces to evacuate diplomats and their families, and other countries have said they are preparing for potential evacuations of their nationals. More than 150 people from various nations had already reached the safety of Saudi Arabia in the first announced evacuation of civilians.

However, fighting resumed in Khartoum after a temporary truce saw gunfire momentarily die down on Friday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the major celebration for Sudanese marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The conflict has left terrified civilians sheltering inside their homes, with many venturing out only to get urgent food supplies or to flee the city. Battles have raged across the country, including in Darfur, where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the city of El Fasher said their medics had been overwhelmed by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children.

More than two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum and neighbouring states are now “out of service,” and at least four hospitals in North Kordofan state were shelled, according to the doctors’ union. The World Food Programme has warned that the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where one-third of the population needs aid.

Foreign countries have said they are preparing for the potential evacuation of thousands more of their nationals, even though Sudan’s main airport remains closed. Sudan’s army said its chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had received calls from leaders of multiple countries to “facilitate and guarantee safety for evacuating citizens and diplomatic missions”.

It noted that the US, Britain, France and China were planning to airlift their nationals out of Khartoum using military planes. Burhan told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the army was in control of “all airports, except for Khartoum airport” and one in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

The dispute between Burhan and Dagalo centred on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army, a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition after the military toppled former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests. In October 2021, Burhan and Dagalo joined forces to oust a civilian government installed after Bashir’s downfall. Dagalo now says the coup was a “mistake”, while Burhan believes it was “necessary” to include more groups into politics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 420 people had been killed and over 3,700 wounded in the fighting across Sudan, but the actual death toll is thought to be higher. The conflict has also led to the deaths of five humanitarians, including four from UN-linked agencies.

Dagalo said in a statement he had “discussed the current crisis” with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and was “focused on the humanitarian truce, safe passages, and protecting humanitarian workers”. The RSF added in its statement that “we renew our commitment to a ceasefire during the declared truce, to open up humanitarian corridors and ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.”

The German ministers of defence and foreign affairs held a crisis meeting on a possible evacuation, after three military transport planes had to turn back on Wednesday, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

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