US government personnel evacuated from Sudan’s capital
The US military evacuated American embassy staff from Khartoum, President Joe Biden said late Saturday, calling for an end to the “unconscionable” fighting in Sudan’s capital between the army and a paramilitary group.
“Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract US Government personnel from Khartoum,” Biden said in a statement, adding that the embassy was “temporarily suspending operations.”
As the violence entered its second week, Biden pushed for an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” “unhindered humanitarian access” and respect for “the will of the people of Sudan.”
“I am proud of the extraordinary commitment of our Embassy staff, who performed their duties with courage and professionalism and embodied America’s friendship and connection with the people of Sudan,” Biden said.
In a separate statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he ordered the evacuation of staff and their families due to the “serious and growing security risks” amid fighting that has already left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
“We remind both belligerents of their obligations under international humanitarian law, including obligations related to the protection of civilians,” Blinken said, reiterating earlier calls to “extend and expand” a ceasefire agreement over the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
US Lieutenant General Douglas Sims told journalists that just over 100 American special operations personnel were involved in the operation, in which three CH-47 Chinook helicopters flew from Djibouti to Ethiopia to Sudan — where they were on the ground for less than an hour.
Under Secretary of State John Bass said fewer than 100 people were evacuated, including some foreign diplomats, and that there is unlikely to be a coordinated US government effort to evacuate American citizens from Sudan in the coming days.
The fighting between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s forces and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began April 15 over a dispute on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army.
The move was a key condition for a deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition after the military toppled former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following mass citizen protests.
The two men had joined forces to oust a civilian government installed after Bashir’s downfall, before turning on each other.
The RSF said on Twitter that it had “coordinated with the U.S Forces Mission consisting of 6 aircraft, for evacuating diplomats and their families on Sunday morning.”
But Bass said “this operation was conducted by the Department of Defense and only by the Department of Defense,” though the RSF “cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members.”