US diplomats evacuated from Sudan amidst conflict; multiple countries conducting evacuation operations
American diplomats and their families have been evacuated from Khartoum by the US military, according to President Joe Biden. The operation, described as “fast and clean” by a US official, reportedly involved fewer than 100 people who were airlifted early on Sunday via three Chinook helicopters near the US embassy. Other countries, including France, the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, and Japan, have also initiated evacuation operations for their citizens in Sudan.
However, conflicting reports have emerged regarding the evacuation convoy being fired upon after leaving the French embassy, with both Sudan’s regular army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force, blaming each other for the attack. French authorities have refrained from commenting on the incident but have confirmed the involvement of their military based in Djibouti in the evacuation operation, with the aim of transporting the evacuees to Djibouti.
In addition to the escalating violence, there are reports of internet connectivity collapsing in Sudan, posing challenges to coordinating aid efforts for those trapped in Khartoum and other cities. The power struggle has resulted in heavy bombardment in the capital, leading to hundreds of casualties and thousands of injuries.
The US embassy in Khartoum has been closed, and the government has stated that it is not safe enough to evacuate private US citizens. This marks the second evacuation of foreign citizens since the eruption of violence on April 15. Other countries, including the UK and Canada, are also considering evacuation options for their staff and citizens in Sudan.
As the situation deteriorates, there have been desperate calls for help from foreign students from various regions who are stranded in Khartoum, where access to electricity, food, and water has been severely impacted by the ongoing conflict. Ceasefire agreements have been ignored, and the World Health Organization has reported over 400 deaths and thousands of injuries, although the actual toll is believed to be higher due to limited healthcare access caused by the closure of most hospitals in the city.
UK citizens stranded and anxious
An emergency government Cobra meeting was chaired by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday to assess the Sudan crisis, and further talks are expected on Sunday.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has cut short his Pacific tour and is returning to London due to the situation.
Some UK nationals trapped in Sudan have voiced frustration and anxiety over the lack of an airlift option.
Iman Abu Garga, a British citizen visiting Khartoum, said she had followed instructions and registered herself and her two children, but has not received any further information since then.
“We have no idea about the timescale or how we’re going to be evacuated. Will it be by airlift from Khartoum airport or by road? It’s incredibly frustrating to have no human contact or communication,” she complained.
In addition to Khartoum, the western region of Darfur, where the RSF first emerged, has also been severely affected by the ongoing 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.
The UK’s armed forces, in collaboration with the US, France, and other allies, successfully conducted a complex and rapid airlift operation to evacuate British diplomats and their families from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, today, as announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
In a statement earlier today, Prime Minister Sunak commended the efforts and dedication of both the diplomats and the military personnel involved in the challenging operation.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace expressed gratitude towards the evacuation effort, which was coordinated by over 1,200 service personnel from the 16th Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines, and the Royal Air Force, according to Wallace.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly explained that specific threats and violence directed towards diplomats in Sudan prioritized their evacuation, while efforts continue to evacuate other British citizens who are still stranded in the country.
However, some UK nationals in Khartoum expressed feelings of abandonment and dissatisfaction with the lack of information provided about evacuation plans by the UK government, as reported by the BBC.
Prime Minister Sunak reiterated the government’s commitment to ending the bloodshed in Sudan and ensuring the safety of British nationals remaining in the country, urging the parties involved to lay down their arms and implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to protect civilians.
In a separate incident, a French convoy was reportedly ambushed in Khartoum while attempting to leave the embassy, forcing them to turn back, as per the BBC.
US diplomats were evacuated through an airborne rescue operation using Chinook helicopters, which airlifted fewer than 100 people, according to Lt Gen Douglas Sims. He added that 100 US troops from the Navy Seals and Army Special Forces flew from Djibouti to Ethiopia, and then into Sudan, and the US Embassy announced on Twitter that it is currently closed and not safe enough to evacuate private citizens.
Other countries such as Belgium, Turkey, Japan, France, the Netherlands, and Italy also carried out similar evacuations of their citizens from Sudan today.
SOURCE: BBC AND NEWS AGENCIES