The US military evacuated embassy officials from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Saturday as nations moved to extract their citizens after a week of battles.
Late on Saturday, the White House said it was temporarily suspending operations at its embassy in Sudan and had conducted an operation to remove US government personnel from Khartoum.
“This tragic violence in Sudan has already cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians,” said US president Joe Biden. “It’s unconscionable and it must stop.” Roughly 100 special forces personnel were involved in the mission, according to US officials, evacuating nearly 100 embassy staff.
The decision highlights the downward spiral in Sudan’s security since fierce fighting erupted last weekend between the country’s armed forces and a powerful paramilitary group.
Sudan has been wracked by a power struggle between the army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti, Sudan’s vice-president and commander of the Rapid Support Forces.
The US state department refuted RSF claims to have aided its evacuation. “This operation was conducted by the Department of Defense, and only by the Department of Defense,” said an official.
Earlier, Sudan’s military said that Saudi diplomats had been evacuated, and that the UK, France and China were also expected to send military aircraft to Khartoum to evacuate their diplomats in “the coming hours”.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the kingdom evacuated 157 people, including 91 Saudis and citizens of other countries. State television showed a naval vessel arriving in the port city of Jeddah with evacuees.
Foreign governments have raced against time to evacuate their citizens. The clashes have paralysed Khartoum airport, where a number of civilian aircraft have been destroyed.
A French official declined to confirm the Sudanese claim that evacuations of French diplomats would soon begin. British officials cautioned against expecting an evacuation “in the coming hours” but did not deny the likelihood that diplomats would be transported over the weekend.
Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, chaired an emergency meeting on Saturday morning with ministers including Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, reflecting concerns in London about the situation in Sudan.
More than 400 people have been killed in the fighting, including at least four UN aid workers, with more than 3,500 injured. The US state department confirmed an American citizen had been killed in the fighting but did not provide further details.
Three employees with the World Food Programme and one from the International Organization for Migration have also died, a US diplomatic convoy has been attacked and the Norwegian diplomatic residence was hit by a missile. Other diplomatic delegations were also attacked.
Additional reporting by Colby Smith