Sudan fighting: Army says foreign nationals to be evacuated

Diplomats and nationals from the UK, US, France and China are to be evacuated from Sudan by air as fighting there continues, a statement from the Sudanese army says.

Army chief Fattah al-Burhan agreed to facilitate and secure their evacuation “in the coming hours”, it said.

He is locked in a bitter power struggle with the leader of a rival paramilitary faction, the Rapid Support Forces.

Saudi Arabia confirmed it had evacuated over 150 people from Sudan on Saturday.

Among those evacuated were diplomats and international officials, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry said.

It said it had safely transported 91 Saudi Arabian citizens, as well as 66 others from various other countries including Qatar, Pakistan, the UAE and Canada. They were evacuated by sea, state TV channel Al-Ekhbariyah reported. It is unclear where in Sudan they were evacuated from.

Meanwhile, the UK government said it was preparing for “a number of contingencies”.

But fierce fighting in the city centre on Saturday made it unclear how evacuations from Khartoum’s airport could take place.

People in Khartoum who have been speaking to the BBC described intense fighting in the city centre on Saturday.

A statement from the Sudanese army said British, US, French and Chinese nationals and diplomats would be evacuated by air on board military transport planes from the capital, Khartoum.

The UK government said it was “doing everything possible to support British nationals and diplomatic staff in Khartoum”.

It said its defence ministry was working with the foreign office to prepare for a number of provisions, without specifying whether immediate evacuations were among those plans.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chaired a Cobra meeting – an emergency response committee – on Saturday morning about the situation in Sudan.

A British citizen in Khartoum told the BBC she felt “completely abandoned” by the British government, adding that she had not been given “much information at all” about possible plans to be evacuated.

“It remains very depressing, worrying and confusing to be a Brit on the ground here,” she said. “We’re still very much in the dark”.

“We don’t have a plan, we don’t even have a kind of plan for a plan. We understand that this is a fast-evolving situation but to be honest we’ve just in many senses been completely abandoned here.”

Spain’s defence minister said six planes were being sent to Djibouti as part of the country’s efforts to evacuate Spanish nationals and others.

Khartoum’s international airport has been closed due to the violence, with foreign embassies unable to bring their citizens home.

The conflict has entered its second week despite both sides – the army and the RSF – agreeing to a three-day ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, starting from Friday. But fighting continued on Saturday.

A former foreign minister, Mariam al-Mahdi, who is sheltering in Khartoum told the BBC the ceasefire was “not taking at all”.

“We are out of electricity for the last 24 hours. We are out of water for the last six days,” she said.

Medical teams are being targeted in the fighting, she said, adding: “There are rotting bodies of our youth in the streets.”

Fierce street battles erupted in Khartoum on 15 April after disagreements emerged between the leaders of both sides – General Burhan and the RSF’s Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo – over how Sudan should be run.

They both held top positions in Sudan’s current military government, formed after the 2019 coup that ousted long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

They were supposed to merge their forces but the RSF resisted this change, mobilising its troops which escalated into full-scale fighting last week.

The World Health Organization says more than 400 people have been killed. The death toll is believed to be much higher as people struggle to reach hospitals.

Thousands of people, mainly civilians, have also been injured, with medical centres under pressure to deal with the influx of patients.

Along with Khartoum, the western region of Darfur, where the RSF first emerged, has also been badly affected by the fighting.

The UN has warned that up to 20,000 people – mostly women and children – have fled Sudan to seek safety in Chad, across the border from Darfur.

Heavy smoke billows above buildings in the vicinity of the Khartoum airport on April 15, 2023


People gather at the station to flee from Khartoum during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum, Sudan April 19, 2023.

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