Foreign countries are quickly evacuating their citizens from Sudan as deadly fighting between the loyal forces of two rival generals enter into a second week.
Evacuation flights continue, with hundreds of people flown out overnight on military aircraft. Foreigners also flee the capital Khartoum in a long United Nations convoy, while millions of frightened residents are hunkering down inside their homes, many running low on water and food.
Across the city of five million, army and paramilitary troops have fought ferocious street battles since April 15, leaving behind charred tanks, gutted buildings, and looted shops. More than 420 people have been killed and thousands wounded, according to UN figures, amid fears of wider turmoil and a humanitarian disaster in one of the world’s poorest nations.
US special forces launched a rescue mission Sunday for around 100 embassy staff and their relatives, swooping in with Chinook helicopters to fly them to a military base in Djibouti. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said UK forces had also rescued diplomats and their families, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country had temporarily suspended its evacuation operation.
“We’ve temporarily suspended Canada’s operations in Sudan. Our diplomats are safe – they have been extracted and are working from outside the country – and we are looking at every possible option to support our locally-engaged staff,” Trudeau tweeted.
Germany and France have also begun evacuating their nationals and those from other countries. Sent by Sudan, two French planes carrying around 200 people of multiple nationalities landed in Djibouti.
The German army has evacuated 101 people on the first of three military aircraft sent to Sudan. Another plane with 113 people was on its way to Jordan, it said. Italy has evacuated about 300 people in total, according to their foreign ministries.
Multiple truces have been agreed in recent days and ignored, and the conflict has left terrified civilians sheltering inside their homes with power largely off amid sweltering heat and the internet out for most.
Fighting has broken out elsewhere across Sudan, and battles have raged in Darfur, where aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said their medics had been “overwhelmed” by the number of patients with gunshot wounds, many of them children, in the city of El Fasher.
The scramble by foreigners to escape has heightened fears among Sudanese of what will happen when diplomats who could act as potential mediators have gone.
The US Agency for International Development said it was ramping up assistance to people caught between the warring factions, and USAID “has deployed a disaster assistance response team in the region to coordinate the humanitarian response for those in need both within and outside of Sudan,” agency chief Samantha Power said Sunday, reiterating calls for a ceasefire.
Madrid’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares tweeted, “We reiterate the call for a ceasefire and resumption of dialogue in Sudan.
” Egypt, Sudan’s large neighbour to the north, said it had evacuated 436 nationals by land. Long convoys of UN vehicles and buses were seen leaving Khartoum heading east to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, 850 kilometres (530 miles) away by road, carrying “citizens from all over the world”, according to one Sierra Leonean evacuee.