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Sudan: Joe Biden says US has evacuated diplomats and families as UK and others work on exodus

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
April 22, 2023 at 23:36
Smoke rises from buildings in Khartoum after intense shelling and gunfights. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Smoke rises from buildings in Khartoum after intense shelling and gunfights. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
US forces understood to have taken personnel out of Khartoum as fighting continues between armed groups vying for power

The US military has evacuated US government personnel from Khartoum, according to Joe Biden, as fighting rocks Sudan where the UK and other countries are also scrambling to get their nationals out.

In a statement on Saturday night, the US president said he was receiving regular reports on work to assist Americans in Sudan and working with allies and partners on the effort.

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, one of the warring sides, said a US forces mission consisting of six aircraft had evacuated the diplomats and their families.

Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said: “We will continue to assist Americans in Sudan in planning for their own safety and provide regular updates to US citizens in the area.” Blinken reiterated calls for parties to the fighting to extend an Eid al-Fitr ceasefire into a sustainable cessation of hostilities.

The UK, France and China were also preparing to remove their nationals, according to a statement on Saturday citing Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) and the nation’s de facto ruler.

Burhan had agreed to facilitate the evacuation of a number of diplomats and nationals from multiple countries, the statement said. It came after a promise by his rival – the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti – to open airports for evacuations.

The British government said it was “doing everything possible” to support nationals trapped in Sudan. Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, chaired a Cobra meeting on Saturday morning with the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, and the Africa minister, Andrew Mitchell.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We recognise that the situation is extremely concerning for British nationals trapped by the fighting in Sudan. We are doing everything possible to support British nationals and diplomatic staff in Khartoum, and the Ministry of Defence is working with the Foreign Office to prepare for a number of contingencies.”

British and US troops were being moved closer to Sudan amid growing speculation of a forthcoming evacuation as the conflict enters a second week. The British embassy in Khartoum is trying to compile a list of those who want to flee.Some foreign nationals began evacuating from a Red Sea port in Sudan on Saturday, Reuters reported, as airstrikes again rocked Khartoum. The capital’s airport has been repeatedly been targeted and many people have been unable to leave their homes or get out of the city to safer areas. Saudi Arabia has evacuated Gulf citizens from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, 400 miles from Khartoum, and Jordan will use the same route for its nationals.

Western countries were expected to send planes for their citizens from Djibouti, though the Sudanese army said airports in Khartoum and Darfur’s biggest city, Nyala, were problematic and it was not clear when that might be possible.

Saturday’s fighting breached what was meant to be a three-day truce from Friday to allow citizens to reach safety and visit family during the Muslim holiday of Eid. Each side accused the other of not respecting the truce.

The conflict has pitted army units loyal to Burhan against the RSF, whose leader, Hemedti, is deputy head of the ruling council. Their power struggle has derailed a shift to civilian rule and raised the spectre of civil war.

The fighting has killed more than 400 people and injured more than 3,500, according to the World Health Organization. Battles continue to rage on the streets of Khartoum, stoking fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

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