(Khartoum) Paramilitaries from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan announced on Sunday the evacuation of the US Embassy in Khartoum, where heavy fighting has entered its second week.
The FSR, which is fighting against the regular army, claimed in a tweet that it had “coordinated” with the United States the evacuation of American diplomats and their families on six planes on Sunday morning.
An Arabic version of the FSR tweet indicated that the evacuation has already taken place, while an English version is unclear on this. The US government did not react immediately, but according to the Washington Post and CNN, citing government sources, the evacuation is complete.
After a relative lull the previous night, fighting resumed on Saturday in Khartoum, largely without electricity and running water. Strong explosions shook the capital during the day and exchanges of fire were heard in different neighborhoods, according to testimonies reported to AFP.
Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday the first major operation to evacuate civilians since the fighting began.
More than 150 people including diplomats and foreign officials have arrived in Jeddah, according to Saudi Foreign Affairs.
The evacuation was carried out by the kingdom’s naval forces with the support of other branches of the military, the Saudi ministry said in a statement, announcing the “safe arrival” of 91 Saudi citizens and about 66 nationals. from 12 other countries.
These include Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Philippines, Canada and Burkina Faso, according to the press release.
“Diplomats and international officials” were among those rescued, according to the same source.
German defense and foreign ministers said they held a crisis meeting on Saturday to discuss the feasibility of an evacuation, after three military planes were forced to turn back on Wednesday, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. .
For several days, the United States, South Korea and Japan have deployed forces in neighboring countries, and the European Union is considering taking similar measures to evacuate their diplomats and nationals from Sudan.
The FSRs also “affirmed their full cooperation with all diplomatic missions, providing all necessary means of protection and ensuring their safe return to their countries”.
Violence erupted there on April 15 between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto ruler of Sudan since the 2021 putsch, and his deputy turned rival, General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, who commands the Rapid Support Forces. (FSR), feared paramilitaries.
On Friday, the army announced that it had “agreed to a three-day ceasefire” for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Muslim fasting. The UN, the United States and other countries had called for an end to the fighting.
But once again, the army and the RSF have not respected their commitments to pause to allow civilians to flee and foreign countries to repatriate their nationals. The still very provisional toll stands at 420 dead and 3,700 injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
General Daglo’s FSR said they were “ready to open all airports in Sudan” to evacuate foreigners. General Burhane told him on Saturday that the regular army “controlled all the airports except those in Khartoum and Nyala”, the capital of South Darfur.
While the two sides are also engaged in a communication battle, it is impossible to know who controls the country’s airports and what state they are in after being the scene of heavy fighting since the first day of the conflict.
The two generals who took power in the 2021 coup are now engaged in a merciless struggle. They were unable to agree on the integration of General Daglo’s paramilitaries into General Burhane’s regular troops, after weeks of political negotiations under international auspices.
In Khartoum, a city of five million people, many civilians have ventured outside just to get emergency food or to flee the city.
The end of the fasting month of Ramadan is usually celebrated ‘with pastries and gifts for the children’, but this year it’s ‘gunshots and the smell of death’, laments AFP Sami al-Nour, a resident of Khartoum.
Living conditions are probably worse in Darfur, where no one can go immediately. On site, a doctor from Médecins sans frontières (MSF) evokes a “catastrophic situation”.
In Sudan, Africa’s third-largest gold producer yet one of the world’s poorest countries, health services have been on their knees for decades and a third of its 45 million people go hungry.
The cessation of operations by most humanitarian workers, after the death of at least four of them over the past week, will worsen the situation. And the conflict now threatens to gain ground beyond Sudan’s borders, experts say.
Now that the guns have spoken, action must be taken quickly to avoid a “full-fledged civil war”, warns the International Crisis Group (IGC).