US, France Evacuate Citizens To Escape Sudan Battles

 

President Joe Biden stated on Sunday that as other countries worked to assist their nationals in fleeing the deadly fighting between competing generals, US troops swooped in on helicopters to evacuate diplomatic workers from Sudan’s battle-torn capital.

On Sunday, France also began evacuation efforts from the country in northeast Africa, where continuing conflict has now lasted for two weeks.

More than 400 people have died and tens of thousands have been injured in brutal clashes between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary organization, which included tank combat in densely populated Khartoum and airstrikes by fighter jets.

Biden, who said the US military “conducted an operation” to extract US government personnel, condemned the violence, saying  “it’s unconscionable and it must stop”.

The rescue mission, which involved three Chinook helicopters flying from Djibouti and remaining on the ground in Khartoum for less than an hour, involved little over 100 US special operations forces.

Without providing any additional information, France’s foreign ministry stated on Sunday that a “rapid evacuation operation” had started and that European people as well as those from “allied partner countries” would receive assistance.

According to witnesses, fighting continued on Sunday with the roar of Sudanese military planes flying overhead and the crackle of automatic weapons echoing around Khartoum.

In the chaos-stricken city where buildings have been gutted, lampposts are laying on the ground, and smoke is rising from shops that have been set on fire, terrified people, many of whom are low on water, food, and other necessities, have huddled inside their houses.

Scramble to evacuate

Heavy fighting broke out on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The former allies seized power in a 2021 coup but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.

Daglo’s RSF emerged from the Janjaweed fighters unleashed in Darfur by former strongman leader Omar al-Bashir, where they were accused of war crimes.

Multiple truces have been agreed and ignored.

Khartoum’s airport has been the site of heavy fighting with aircraft destroyed on the runway, and is under the control of the RSF.

US Under Secretary of State John Bass said that the RSF “cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members”, warning any wider effort to evacuate thousands of other American citizens was unlikely in the coming days.

More than 150 people from various nations reached the safety of Saudi Arabia after naval forces launched a rescue across the Red Sea on Saturday, collecting both Saudi citizens and nationals from 12 other countries from Port Sudan.

Other foreign countries have said they are preparing for the potential evacuation of thousands more of their nationals, with South Korea and Japan deploying forces to nearby countries, and the European Union weighing a similar move.

Three German military transport planes had to turn back Wednesday, according to German weekly Der Spiegel.

But the scramble by foreigners to escape has sparked worry among Sudanese of what will happen when diplomats who could act as potential mediators have gone.

“Pushing for safe passages to evacuate internationals without simultaneously pushing to end the war will be terrible”, said researcher Hamid Khalafallah.

“International actors will have less impact once they’re out of country,” he said, adding in a message to foreign nations: “Do all you can to leave safely, but don’t leave the Sudanese people behind unprotected.”

 ‘Living in darkness’

In Khartoum, a city of five million, the conflict has left terrified civilians sheltering inside their homes, with power largely cut amid sweltering heat and the internet cut for most.

Many have ventured out only to get food and water, supplies of which are dwindling, or to flee the city.

“We were living in darkness…first we didn’t have water and then we didn’t have power,” Khartoum resident Awad Ahmad Sherif said. “We ask God for our safety.”

While the capital has seen some of the fiercest clashes, fighting has broken out elsewhere across Sudan, Africa’s third biggest nation and roughly three times the size of France.

Battles have raged in Darfur, where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the city of El Fasher said their medics had been “overwhelmed” by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children.

The UN World Health Organization said more than 420 people had been killed and over 3,700 wounded in the fighting across Sudan, but the actual death toll is thought to be higher.

Some hospitals have been shelled in fighting and others looted, with more than two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum and neighbouring states “out of service”, the doctors’ union said.

Burhan and Daglo’s dispute centred on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army, a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition after the military toppled Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests.

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