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Sudanese rival pledges evacuation assistance, US diplomat airlifted

Khartoum – U.S. embassy officials were flown in from Sudan early Sunday morning as troops loyal to rival generals battled for nine days to control Africa’s third-largest nation as hopes of easing tensions faded. rice field.

The combatants said they were helping coordinate the evacuation of foreigners, although ongoing gunfire in the Sudan capital had undermined their claims.

A senior Biden administration official said the U.S. military is conducting a dangerous evacuation of U.S. embassy employees. Troops that flew staff from Khartoum safely left Sudanese airspace, a second US official confirmed.

The Rapid Support Force, a paramilitary group that has fought the Sudanese military, said the US rescue mission involved six aircraft and coordinated evacuation efforts with the US.

However, the US denied that the group did anything to help evacuate.

“In the last few hours you may have seen some claims on social media that the Emergency Security Forces somehow cooperated with us and assisted in this operation. I did,” said Under Secretary of State John Bass. “They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire at our soldiers during the operation.”

The RSF, led by General Mohamed Hamad D’Agoro, said it was cooperating with all diplomatic missions and committed to a three-day ceasefire declared at sundown on Friday.

Earlier, Army Secretary Abdel Fattah Barhan said he would expedite the evacuation of American, British, Chinese and French citizens and diplomats from Sudan after speaking with leaders of several countries that have requested assistance. .

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said on Sunday that France was organizing the evacuation of embassy staff, French citizens in Sudan and citizens of allied countries. She said France was organizing the operation “in collaboration with all parties involved, as well as our European partners and allies.”

However, the situation on the ground remains precarious. Most major airports have become battlegrounds and traveling from the capital has proven to be extremely dangerous. The two rivals dug in and signaled to resume fighting after a declared three-day truce.

With Sudan’s main international airport closed and millions of people sheltering indoors, questions are swirling about how the mass rescue of foreign citizens will unfold. As a battle between Sudanese forces With powerful militias raging in and around Khartoum, including residential areas, foreign countries are struggling to repatriate their own citizens, food supplies are dwindling and many are confined to their homes.

The White House did not confirm the Sudanese military’s announcement. The National Security Council said it “made it clear to both sides that they have a responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and non-combatants.”friday, america Said there was no government-coordinated evacuation plan Of the estimated 16,000 US citizens trapped in Sudan,

Saudi Arabia announced the successful repatriation of some of its citizens on Saturday, showing footage of Saudi citizens and other foreigners being welcomed with chocolates and flowers as they disembarked from evacuation ships at the Saudi port of Jeddah. shared.

Officials did not elaborate on exactly how the rescue unfolded, but Barhan said Saudi diplomats and citizens first traveled overland to Port Sudan, a major port on the Red Sea. He said Jordanian diplomats would soon be evacuated as well. The port is located in the Far East of Sudan, approximately 840 kilometers (520 miles) from Khartoum.

President Joe Biden ordered U.S. forces to evacuate embassy personnel after receiving recommendations from his national security team on Saturday that there was no end to the fighting in sight.

The evacuation order was thought to apply to about 70 Americans. The US military had flown them from the embassy landing strip to an unspecified location.

As the United States initially focused on evacuating diplomats, the Pentagon said it was moving additional troops and equipment to its naval base in the small country of Djibouti’s Gulf of Aden to prepare for the effort. rice field.

Barhan told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya satellite channel on Saturday that flights in and out of Khartoum remained dangerous as clashes continued. He claimed the military had regained control of all other airports in the country, except his one in the southwestern city of Nyala.

“We share the international community’s concerns about foreigners,” he said, pledging that Sudan would provide “necessary airports and safe passage” for foreigners caught in the fighting.

Two ceasefire attempts It also collapsed rapidly earlier this week. The turmoil has dealt a perhaps fatal blow to the country’s hopes for a transition to a civilian-led democracy, and raised concerns that the turmoil could be drawn to neighboring countries such as Chad, Egypt and Libya.

“The war has been going on since day one. It doesn’t stop for a moment,” said Atiyah Abdallah Atiyah, secretary of the Sudan Medical Corps who is monitoring the casualties.

More than 400 people have died in clashes so far, according to the World Health Organization. Artillery shelling, gunfights and sniper fire in populated areas have hit civilian infrastructure, including many hospitals. Internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org said Sunday that “Internet connectivity has almost completely collapsed.”

An international airport near the center of the capital came under heavy artillery fire as the RSF attempted to overwhelm the facility. In an apparent effort to expel the RSF fighters, Sudanese forces bombed the airport, destroyed at least one runway, and littered the runway with wrecked planes. The full extent of the damage to the airfield remains unknown.

The conflict has opened a dangerous new chapter in Sudan’s history and plunged the country into uncertainty.

“No one can predict when or how this war will end,” Barhan told the Al-Hadas news channel. “I’m currently in command, just put in a coffin.”

The current outburst of violence comes after Barhan and Dagalo broke down over a recent international brokerage deal with pro-democracy activists intended to incorporate the RSF into the military and ultimately lead to civilian rule.

Rival generals rose to power in the tumultuous aftermath of a popular uprising that led to the ouster of Sudan’s longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019. Two years later, they joined forces in a coup to oust the civilian leader.

Both the military and the RSF have long histories of human rights abuses. The RSF grew out of Janjaweed militias accused of atrocities in suppressing rebellion in the Darfur region of western Sudan in the early 2000s.

Many Sudanese fear the violence will only escalate as tens of thousands of foreign citizens try to leave, despite repeated promises by their generals.

“I am sure that both sides of the fighting care more about the lives of foreigners than the lives of Sudanese citizens,” said Atiyah.


Associated press writers Isabel DeBre from Jerusalem, Fay Abuelgasim from Beirut, Angela Charlton from Paris, Samy Magdy from Cairo, Aamer Madhani from Washington, Matthew Lee and Tara Copp contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/04/22/sudans-army-says-evacuations-of-diplomats-expected-to-begin/ Sudanese rival pledges evacuation assistance, US diplomat airlifted

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