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Foreign states seek Sudan evacuations after US pulls out diplomats (Update 2)

smoke is seen rise from buildings in khartoum north
File photo: Smoke is seen rise from buildings during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum, Sudan

The United States said its special forces helped embassy staff get out of Sudan, but evacuations by some other countries appeared to face problems on Sunday amid battles between rival military factions that have triggered a humanitarian crisis.

The eruption of fighting eight days ago between the army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group has killed hundreds of civilians and trapped many thousands in their homes.

Live TV feeds on Sunday showed thick smoke hanging over the capital Khartoum with gunfire ringing out in some areas, a Reuters reporter said, as Sudanese civilians tried to flee and foreign countries attempted to pull out their people.

The warring sides accused each other of attacking a convoy of French nationals, both saying one French person was wounded. France’s Foreign Ministry, which had earlier said it was evacuating diplomatic staff and citizens, did not comment.

The army also accused the RSF of attacking and looting a Qatari convoy heading to Port Sudan. Doha released no immediate statement on any incident.

Egypt said a member of its mission in Sudan had been wounded by a gunshot, without giving details.

President Joe Biden said the U.S. was temporarily suspending operations at its embassy in Khartoum but remained committed to the Sudanese people, reiterating calls for a ceasefire.

“The belligerent parties must implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people of Sudan,” Biden said in a statement.

The fighting broke out in Khartoum, along with its adjoining sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri, and other parts of the country on April 15, four years after long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled during a popular uprising.

The army and RSF jointly staged a coup in 2021 but fell out during negotiations over a plan to form a civilian government and integrate the RSF into the armed forces.

 

CEASEFIRE BREACHED

The army under Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF, headed by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, have failed to observe ceasefires agreed almost daily, including a three-day truce for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which began on Friday.

For the first time since the start of the fighting, a video was posted that briefly showed Hemedti in battle dress in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, surrounded by cheering troops, near Khartoum’s presidential palace.

Reuters was able to confirm the location by buildings and road layout seen in the video which matched satellite imagery of the area, but was not able to independently verify the date the video was filmed.

Burhan said on Monday that he was based at the army headquarters, about 2 km (1.2 miles) from the palace.

Battles have continued around the army’s headquarters in central Khartoum and the airport, which has been closed by the clashes, and over the past two days in Bahri, where the army has used troops on the ground as well as air strikes to try to push back the RSF.

The RSF said on Sunday that its forces were targeted by air strikes in Bahri’s Kafouri district and that dozens were “killed and injured”.

RSF forces were heavily deployed in the streets and on the bridges across the capital, with army troops visible in parts of Omdurman, a Reuters reporter said. Neighbourhoods were otherwise largely empty of civilians and ordinary life.

 

CHINOOKS

Sudan’s sudden collapse into warfare has dashed plans to restore civilian rule, brought an already impoverished country to the brink of humanitarian disaster and threatened a wider conflict that could draw in outside powers.

U.S. officials said special forces using aircraft including MH-47 Chinook helicopters swept into Sudan’s battle-stricken capital on Saturday from a U.S. base in Djibouti, spending just one hour on the ground to bring out fewer than 100 people.

“We did not take any small-arms fire on the way in and were able to get in and out without issue,” said Lieutenant General Douglas Sims, the director of operations at the military’s Joint Staff.

Chris Maier, an assistant secretary of defense, said the U.S. military might use drone or satellite imagery to detect threats to Americans travelling on overland routes out of Sudan, or position naval assets at the Port of Sudan to aid Americans arriving there.

Saudi Arabia has already evacuated Gulf citizens from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, 650 km (400 miles) from Khartoum. Jordan will use the same route for its nationals.

Egypt, which has more than 10,000 citizens in Sudan, urged its nationals outside Khartoum to head to its consulate in Port Sudan, and to a consular office in Wadi Halfa on the border with Egypt.

Beyond Khartoum, reports of the worst violence have come from Darfur, a western region bordering Chad that suffered a conflict that escalated from 2003 leaving 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million displaced.

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