A growing list of countries have evacuated diplomats and citizens from Sudan’s capital as fierce fighting continues to rage in Khartoum. The US and UK announced on Sunday they had flown diplomats out of the country.
France, Germany, Italy and Spain have also been evacuating diplomats and other nationals.
A vicious power struggle between the regular army and a powerful paramilitary force has led to violence across Sudan for more than a week.
US authorities said they had airlifted fewer than 100 people with three Chinook helicopters on Sunday morning in a “fast and clean” operation. The US embassy in Khartoum is now closed, and a tweet on its official feed says it is not safe enough for the government to evacuate private US citizens.
The UK government managed to airlift British diplomats and their families out of the country in what was described as a “complex and rapid” operation. Foreign Minister James Cleverly said options to evacuate the remaining British nationals in Sudan were “severely limited”.
Several other countries were conducting evacuation operations on Sunday:
- French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that a plane had arrived in Djibouti carrying French citizens and others on Sunday, while another evacuation took place on Monday, taking the number of people evacuated so far to 388, its government said
- A handful of Dutch citizens left Khartoum on the French plane, while another with people from the Netherlands on board left early on Monday morning
- Germany’s army said the first of three planes had left Sudan, bound for Jordan, with 101 people on board
- Italy and Spain have evacuated citizens – the Spanish mission included citizens from Argentina, Colombia, Ireland, Portugal, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela and Sudan
- Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had evacuated its diplomatic staff
- Turkey – a key player in Sudan – began evacuation efforts by road from the southern city of Wad Medani on Sunday, but plans from one site in Khartoum were postponed after a nearby “explosion”
Other countries successfully evacuated people on Saturday. More than 150 people, mostly citizens of Gulf countries, as well as Egypt, Pakistan and Canada were evacuated by sea to the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah.
On Sunday, long lines of United Nations vehicles and buses were seen leaving Khartoum heading east towards Port Sudan on the Red Sea, carrying “citizens from all over the world”, a Sierra Leonean evacuee told AFP news agency.
There have been desperate calls for help from many foreign students – from Africa, Asia and the Middle East – who are also stuck in Khartoum, a city of some six million people. A Nigerian student association in Sudan called on its government to conduct an “immediate rescue mission”, saying many students had chosen to flee.
Meanwhile, internet monitoring group NetBlocks said Sudan was in the midst of an “internet blackout”, with connectivity at 2% of ordinary levels, which could seriously hinder the coordination of help for those trapped in Khartoum and other cities.
The power struggle has seen heavy bombardment in the capital city, with hundreds killed and thousands more injured. The near-constant shooting and bombing in Khartoum and elsewhere has cut electricity and safe access to food and water for much of the population.
Several ceasefires that had seemingly been agreed by both sides were ignored, including a three-day pause to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started on Friday.
The World Health Organization says the fighting has killed more than 400 people and injured thousands. But the death toll is believed to be much higher as people are struggling to get healthcare, as most of the city’s hospitals have been forced to close by the fighting.
Along with Khartoum, the western region of Darfur, where the RSF first emerged, has also been badly affected by the fighting. The UN has warned that up to 20,000 people, mostly women and children – have fled Sudan to seek safety in Chad, across the border from Darfur.