International military operations fly foreigners out of Sudan

As diplomatic employees are rescued, thousands of people could be left behind

Operation Sagittaire is evacuating about 100 people from Sudan on the first French flight out of Sudan. AFP
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Embassies in Sudan are evacuating their staff, as violence in Khartoum enters its second week.

Clashes between two warring factions, the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, have killed more than 420 people and injured thousands in days.

On Sunday, the US and UK rescued diplomats and their families in military operations, while France and Italy announced that plans to evacuate their staff and citizens were under way.

More than 100 US troops and three Chinook helicopters were sent to evacuate less than 100 people, US military officials said. The aircraft flew in from Djibouti, and were grounded in Khartoum for less than an hour, according to AFP.

Yet thousands of US citizens and dual nationals are thought to remain in the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would continue to “assist Americans in planning for their own safety”.

The UK sent more than 1,200 military personnel to evacuate its diplomats and their families. The 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines and the RAF were involved in the evacuation of the British embassy.

Elite British troops flew into Khartoum on board an American military aircraft.

France said a “rapid evacuation operation” for diplomats and citizens was under way. About 250 French citizens are believed to be in Sudan. Other European citizens and those from “allied partner countries” will also be assisted, the Foreign Ministry said.

About 100 people were evacuated on the first French flight after a “complicated” rescue operation, French officials said on Sunday.

According to a Djibouti airport source, 106 people landed in Djibouti, while a French official said another flight was on the way.

“A plane has landed and another is in the air”, each plane allowing the evacuation of “100 people”, the French military said.

However, the warring army and RSF each accused the other of attacking a French convoy, Reuters reported. The army said the RSF had fired on the convoy, wounding a French national.

Italy said it would try to evacuate citizens on Sunday and was “working on a window of opportunity” to get them out, according to its AGI news agency. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter that the Netherlands was “participating in an international evacuation operation with a team from Jordan”.

Egypt said it had started evacuating citizens from Port Sudan and Wadi Halfa, in the north. It earlier urged nationals in Khartoum to shelter at home until the situation improved. It said there needed to be a “meticulous, safe and organised” evacuation process for its 10,000 citizens in neighbouring Sudan to reach home. It said one of its diplomats had been wounded by gunfire, without giving details.

There have been two aborted evacuation attempts. The first was by Germany, which sent three military transport planes to carry 150 citizens on Wednesday, according to Der Spiegel.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry said four Jordanian military planes left Port Sudan airport overnight heading to Amman with 343 evacuees on board.

Jordanian nationals made up most of the evacuees but there are also Palestinian, German, Syrian and Iraqi nationals on board, the ministry said.

On Sunday, Turkey began the evacuation by road of its estimated 600 nationals in two districts of Khartoum and the city of Wad Madani. But explosions near one of the designated meeting points in Khartoum forced them to postpone the plans in that area.

Other countries have sent forces to nearby countries to prepare for evacuations.

On Friday, South Korea sent a military aircraft to the US airbase in Djibouti, to evacuate 26 nationals, whom the Foreign Ministry said were safe. Japan deployed three Japanese Self-Defence Forces aircraft and a task force of 370 military personnel to Djibouti to evacuate an estimated 63 Japanese citizens in Sudan, according to Kyodo News.

India said it had sent a naval ship to Port Sudan and two military planes to Jeddah as part of its preparations and was telling citizens to avoid unnecessary risks.

Greece announced on Sunday that Air Force aircraft and troops were being relocated to Egypt to participate in a potential operation to rescue Greek and Cypriot citizens.

The Sudanese army said on Saturday that it was aiding efforts to evacuate diplomats from China.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that 43 of its 1,600 citizens in Sudan were sheltering in the embassy compound in Khartoum.

Updated: April 24, 2023, 5:08 AM