U.S. troops flew a helicopter raid to evacuate embassy staff from Sudan’s war-torn capital, President Joe Biden announced Sunday, as other countries tried to help their citizens flee deadly fighting between rival generals.
On Sunday, France also launched an evacuation operation from the northeastern African country, where fighting has entered its second week.
Intense fighting between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group – fighter jets launched airstrikes and street battles with tanks in densely populated Khartoum – has killed more than 400 people and wounded thousands more.
Biden said the U.S. military “conducted an operation” to free U.S. government personnel, calling for an immediate ceasefire and condemning the deadly violence.
“This is unconscionable and must stop,” he said in a statement.
Just over 100 U.S. special operations forces were involved in the rescue, which rescued fewer than 100 people and saw three Chinook helicopters take off from Djibouti and stay on the ground in Khartoum for less than an hour.
The French foreign ministry said on Sunday that a “rapid evacuation operation” had begun and that European citizens and those from “alliance countries” would also be helped, without giving further details.
scrambling to evacuate
On April 15, heavy fighting broke out between forces loyal to Army Chief Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy turned rival Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, who Commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF).
The former ally seized power in a coup in 2021 but has since fallen in a bitter power struggle.
Daglo’s RSF stems from the Janjaweed fighters unleashed by former strongman leader Omar al-Bashir in Darfur, where they have been accused of war crimes.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Bass said the RSF “cooperated without firing on our service members,” and warned that a coordinated U.S. government evacuation of other U.S. citizens was unlikely in the coming days.
More than 150 people from various countries arrived in the first-ever announced civilian evacuation as naval forces launched a rescue operation across the Red Sea on Saturday, bringing together 91 Saudi citizens and about 66 nationals from 12 other countries from Port Sudan Saudi Arabia’s safe zone.
Other countries say they are preparing for the possible evacuation of thousands more of their nationals, with South Korea and Japan deploying troops to nearby countries and the European Union weighing similar moves.
Three German military transport planes had to turn back on Wednesday, German weekly Der Spiegel reported.
Khartoum airport, which is controlled by the Rapid Support Forces, has been the scene of intense fighting, with planes destroyed on the runway.
“Living in the Dark”
Multiple armistice agreements have been agreed to and ignored.
The latest truce was announced during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and the gunfire fell silent on Friday but then resumed. The battle continues.
Alan Boswell of the International Crisis Group said on Sunday: “Sadly, the main focus and impetus for the Eid ceasefire in Sudan was the evacuation of foreigners, not humanitarian relief or peace diplomacy.”
In Khartoum, clashes left terrified civilians sheltering in their homes, with power largely cut in the city of 5 million people amid the sweltering heat.
Many have ventured out just to get food and water, supplies are dwindling, or to flee the city.
“We live in darkness, it’s not normal. First we don’t have water, then we don’t have electricity,” said Awad Ahmad Sherif, a resident of Khartoum. “We are asking God to keep us safe.”
The woes of residents were exacerbated by an “almost complete breakdown of internet connectivity” across the country, according to web monitor NetBlocks.
While some of the fiercest clashes have taken place in the capital, fighting has also erupted elsewhere in Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country, roughly three times the size of France.
As fighting rages across Darfur, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the city of El Fasher said their medics were “overwhelmed” by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children.
The United Nations World Health Organization says more than 420 people have been killed and more than 3,700 wounded in fighting across Sudan, although the actual death toll is believed to be higher.
More than two-thirds of hospitals in Khartoum and neighboring states are now “out of service” and at least four hospitals in northern Kordofan state have been shelled, doctors’ unions said.
The dispute between Burhan and Daglo centered on plans to include the RSF in the regular army, a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition after the military ousted Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests.