Saudi soldiers handing out chocolates and flowers to rescuers in Sudan. Photo: reproduction AFP / HO / SPA

The United States withdrew its diplomatic staff from Khartoum, where heavy fighting has entered its second week, in an “uneventful” helicopter operation ordered by President Joe Biden. France, China and the United Kingdom are also organizing the rescue of their embassy staff and civilians in Sudan. A first action, removing more than 150 foreigners, was also announced this Saturday (22).

“Today, under my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to evacuate United States government officials,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday night, also calling for an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire” to put an end to these attacks. “senseless” acts of violence.

Still according to the press release, the American leader especially thanked Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia for their support in the operation.

The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, for his part, indicated that this decision to withdraw American personnel was taken due to the “unacceptable risk” that the situation poses to embassy employees.

The operation involved three CH-47 Chinook helicopters and allowed the evacuation of “just under a hundred” people, including several foreign diplomats, said John Bass, a senior State Department official.

The helicopters left Djibouti and then stopped in Ethiopia before heading to Khartoum, where they stayed less than an hour, added a Pentagon official, Lieutenant General Douglass Sims. “We were able to get in and out without incident,” he added.

Sudanese soldiers. AFP

“coordinated” operation

Prior to Washington’s official announcement, the Rapid Support Forces (FAR) paramilitaries in Sudan had claimed to have “coordinated” with the United States the evacuation of US embassy staff in Khartoum. But John Bass rejected any indication that the operation was “coordinated” with the FAR and claimed it was “exclusively conducted” by US special forces.

The complexity of the action began by bringing together, in recent days, all the scattered diplomatic personnel in Khartoum in a single place. The evacuation operation, prepared since the beginning of the week, concerned only government officials and not US citizens in Sudan, who would number in the hundreds.

Given the security conditions, “we do not plan to coordinate at the government level an evacuation of other fellow citizens for the time being”, added John Bass, emphasizing that the American authorities are intensifying contacts with their nationals, guiding them to place themselves in safety.

The United States sent troops to Djibouti, a small stable country in the Horn of Africa about 1,100 km southeast of Khartoum, later in the week to facilitate the evacuation of its embassy staff.

Blinken has multiplied diplomatic exchanges in recent days, discussing at least twice this week with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and his rival Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, as well as with the African Union.

civilian evacuation

Leaving Khartoum is also the watchword for hundreds of foreigners that other embassies are trying to repatriate as quickly as possible, reports the RFI special envoy to the Sudanese capital, Eiiott Brachet. The two belligerents say they are ready to facilitate the withdrawal of foreigners, but the operations promise to be delicate, as the two generals have repeatedly shown themselves to be incapable of stopping the fighting.

In a first large-scale operation, led on Saturday by Saudi Arabia, more than 150 civilians, of various nationalities, managed to leave Sudan. They are Saudis and nationals of 12 other countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, the Emirates, Egypt, Burkina Faso, as well as India and Pakistan.

The evacuated people were transported in a convoy of vehicles to the city of Port Sudan. Then they crossed the Red Sea aboard Saudi ships. On Saturday, five ships arrived in Jeddah, a port city in Saudi Arabia. A total of 91 Saudi nationals and 66 nationals of “sister countries” were evacuated. “Diplomats and international officials,” specified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia.

Images on a Saudi television channel show women and children displaying the green flag of Saudi Arabia aboard one of these ships. The crew of a Saudi airliner that was hit by gunfire earlier in the conflict are also among those rescued, reports RFI correspondent in the Gulf region, Nicolas Keraudren.

“All that is possible”

The Sudanese army claims that four countries are also preparing to withdraw their diplomats and nationals with their own military planes: in addition to the United States, France, China and the United Kingdom, where the government claims to do “everything possible”, while the British on the spot, threatened by the fighting, accuse of having been abandoned by the authorities.

The Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, recognizes an “extremely worrying situation for British citizens trapped by the fighting”, and says that the authorities are “preparing for the most diverse eventualities”.

Violent fighting has pitted the Sudanese army against FAR paramilitaries for more than a week in Khartoum, having already caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured and displaced people.

With information from AFP.

Originally posted on

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