Sudan Evacuations Accelerate as Fragile Cease-Fire Falters

The international effort to evacuate consular workers and other expats from Sudan picked up over the weekend even while hampered at times by a ninth day of widespread fighting.

(Bloomberg) —

The international effort to evacuate consular workers and other expats from Sudan picked up over the weekend even while hampered at times by a ninth day of widespread fighting. 

The UK and US militaries managed to airlift their diplomats to safety, with the US ferrying consular staff in MH-47 Chinook helicopters. Thousands of American citizens, mostly dual nationals, are said to remain. 

Other countries started to gain access to the airport in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on Sunday even as the war raged unabated in places. A temporary cease-fire agreed to by Sudan’s army and the Rapid Support Forces militia it has battled since April 15 appeared to have failed. Officials from the US and European Union continued to press for a halt to fighting. 

“UK armed forces have completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan, amid a significant escalation in violence and threats to embassy staff,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

An official with the French foreign ministry said Sunday that about 100 people had been evacuated from Khartoum airport on the first plane out, with a second aircraft scheduled to leave before nightfall and efforts to resume Monday morning. The initial flight was headed for Djibouti on the east African coast. 

France has responded to requests from partners and allies to take some of their nationals, the official said, with citizens from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the UK, Niger, Morocco and Turkey among those set to be flown out. 

ANSA reported that Italy completed a “very complicated” mission rescuing almost 150 trapped citizens.

Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Greece, Ireland and Jordan are among the other countries who’ve organized rescue efforts. Ghana said it’s working to evacuate its citizens through Ethiopia. 

The conflict, the culmination of a long-simmering struggle between the army and the RSF, has upended plans for a power-sharing government that was supposed to lead the nation of about 45 million to democratic elections after a 2021 coup. It has left over 420 people dead and at least 3,700 wounded, according to the World Health Organization.

Sitting at the crossroads of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan has drawn interest from foreign powers including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which have each backed the rival generals leading the fight — military boss Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF head Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Western powers have dangled billions of dollars in frozen aid in a push for a return of civilian rule in a country coveted by Russia and China for its strategic Red Sea coastline and mineral resources.

Neighboring South Sudan — which has about 1 million people in Sudan — has received around 7,000 citizens fleeing by road, acting foreign minister Deng Dau Deng said by phone from Juba.

Read more: US Military Evacuates Diplomats From Sudan as Conflict Rages 

“Typically all the countries evacuating their people are doing it from Port Sudan,” Deng said, adding that its oil exports via the port were unaffected.

A six-bus convoy of French and German citizens was making a potentially perilous journey on Sunday to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) to the northeast of the capital, said two Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak publicly.   

The “vast majority” of an estimated 16,000 US citizens said to remain in Sudan are “dual nationals, Sudanese Americans,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” The US is working with international partners to find a safe way to get them out, said Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urging them to shelter in place for now. 

Heavy clashes were reported in northern Khartoum and it remained unclear who controlled strategic locations throughout the capital city, according to an internal UN document published Saturday and seen by Bloomberg. 

The RSF and the army have traded accusations that the other side is impeding foreign evacuations and attacking embassy staff.

There are “no movement corridors in Khartoum officially open despite the RSF indicating openness to support evacuations,” according to the document. “Civilians are self-relocating despite the significant risks.”

Meanwhile, looting of humanitarian assets and forced entry into compounds reported since the conflict began are “expected to continue,” the UN said in the document. 

“Due to the shortages of water, fuel, food, UN personnel and dependents are likely to try to self-relocate, with significant risks of crossfire, arrests, physical violence,” the document said.

–With assistance from Jenny Che, Tony Czuczka and Ekow Dontoh.

(Updates Italian efforts in seventh paragraph)

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