The United States military forces, including elements from special operations forces, successfully evacuated American staff and their families overnight from the embassy in Khartoum, Sudan overnight. The mission comes as fighting between the two main leaders in the country enters a second week, despite a ceasefire to mark the end of Ramadan.
“Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to extract U.S. Government personnel from Khartoum in response to the situation in Sudan,” President Joe Biden said in a statement on Twitter. “I am grateful for the commitment of our Embassy staff and the skill of our service members who brought them to safety.”
Three three MH-47 Chinooks took off from an American base in Djibouti, flying to Ethiopia to refuel before arriving in Khartoum to reach the embassy. American staff and their families were taken out of Sudan, as were the members of the Marine Security Detachment at the embassy. Some local Sudanese staff are maintaining the embassy in a “caretaker status,” per the State Department. The whole operation was conducted by approximately 100 special operations forces.
Reuters and the Associated Press first reported the news of the evacuation, before Biden’s official announcement. The Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary organization that until recently had been sharing power with the standing armed forces, announced on Twitter earlier that it was coordinating the evacuation with American troops. The Pentagon did not immediately respond with confirmation on the RSF’s participation or the operation itself.
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On Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum posted on Twitter that it remained under a shelter in place status, and that it was unlikely it would be able to coordinate an evacuation of private American citizens in the country. It also suspended emergency consular activities due to the safety concerns. On Saturday night Eastern Time, after the embassy was evacuated, John Bass, Under Secretary for Management Ambassador with the State Department, said that “as a result of that uncertain security picture, as a result of the unavailability of the civilian airport, we don’t foresee coordinating a U.S. Government evacuation for our fellow citizens in Sudan at this time or in the coming days.”
“I am receiving regular reports from my team on their ongoing work to assist Americans in Sudan, to the extent possible. We are also working closely with our allies and partners in this effort,” Biden’s statement on Twitter, posted late on Saturday, April 22 Eastern Time, continued. He additionally called for an end to the violence, and said that the embassy in Khartoum is temporarily closed.
Also on Thursday, the United States announced that it was moving additional forces to eastern Africa in preparation for a possible evacuation. Those elements were sent to nearby Djibouti.
The fighting in Sudan, now in its ninth day, is between the army, led by de-facto leader of the country Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces, led by “Hemedti” Hamdan Daglo who until fighting started had served as the top deputy in the transitional council.
The conflict comes after months of growing tensions, with forces building up in the capital before fighting began on April 15. Sudan had been governed by a joint civilian-military transitional government since 2019, when a coup ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir following months of pro-democracy protests. Since 2021, al-Burhan and Dagalo have led the country under the promise of returning it to civilian control. Demonstrations against military rule have been ongoing since 2019, protesting uses of force against the populace. The country just marked the fourth anniversary of the protests’ start on April 6, less than two weeks before this latest violence commenced.
Fighting started in Khartoum, but has spread elsewhere in Sudan, including the city of Omdurman, just northwest of Khartoum, and the Darfur region. So far hundreds have been killed and thousands more injured. A three-day ceasefire was announced on Thursday, April 20 for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, but street fighting has continued.
The Sudanese Armed Forces said on Saturday morning that it is working to evacuate American, British, French and Chinese nationals. At the same time both Saudi Arabia and Jordan began evacuating its citizens via Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Evacuations have had logistical challenges, among them that the capital’s landlocked airport has been closed.
More than 400 people have died since fighting began on April 15.
This is a developing story.
UPDATE: 04/22/2023. This story was updated to include Biden’s remarks on the evacuation.
UPDATE: 04/23/2023. This story has been updated with comments from a briefing with the State Department on the details of the evacuation.
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