The United States has evacuated its embassy staff and their families from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as fighting between the country's army and its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues unabated.
The US military airlifted about 70 American personnel from the capital on Sunday and closed the embassy indefinitely after evacuating the last employee.
The precarious evacuation, which was carried out by about 100 US special operations forces, took less than an hour, with no major casualties reported.
Three MH-47 helicopters took the embassy staff to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia.
However, thousands of private American citizens remained in Sudan, with US officials saying it would be too dangerous to carry out a broader evacuation mission.
In a statement, US President Joe Biden thanked his country's troops for carrying out the mission, saying the operation to extract US government personnel from Khartoum was complete.
Biden gave the order to evacuate embassy personnel after receiving an assessment Saturday from national security advisers that the fighting would not subside.
He also thanked Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia, which he said played a critical role in “the success of our operation.”
The US president further said he was receiving regular reports from his team on efforts to assist remaining Americans in Sudan “to the extent possible.”
He also called for the end to “unconscionable” violence in the African country, saying “The belligerent parties must implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people of Sudan.”
Earlier in the day, the RSF claimed it had "coordinated with US forces for evacuating diplomats and their families.
However, US Undersecretary of State John Bass denied the claim, saying “They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation.”
Sunday’s operation took place a day after the Sudanese army said it would facilitate the evacuation of diplomats and nationals of the United Kingdom, the United States, France and China on board military transport planes from Khartoum, as heavy fighting between the forces of rival generals entered a second week.
Previous plans to evacuate foreign nationals were not implemented due to safety issues, as Khartoum's international airport has been closed since the fighting erupted last weekend between the troops loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the leader of the RSF, Mohammed Hamdan Daglo.
Meanwhile, France has started evacuating its citizens including diplomatic personnel from Sudan.
The French Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that it has begun the “rapid evacuation operation” and that European citizens and those from “allied partner countries” would also be assisted, without giving further details.
Separately, Canada has told its citizens in Sudan that evacuations are “not possible at this time” due to the closure of airspace, urging its citizens to “continue to shelter in place.”
The Canadian government made the remarks in a post on Twitter on Saturday, assuring its citizens that it was “coordinating with other countries to respond to the crisis.”
Heavy clashes erupted between the Sudanese military and the RSF on April 15 amid disagreements over the latter’s integration into the armed forces.
The fighting has derailed the latest internationally backed plan for a transition to a civilian government, four years after the fall of President Omar al-Bashir and two years after a military coup.
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