Foreigners Evacuated as Factions Battle in Sudan’s Capital


Several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have evacuated their embassy staff and citizens from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, as rival military factions continue to battle. The fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group began eight days ago and has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, with 420 people killed and millions of Sudanese without access to basic services. As people attempted to flee the chaos, countries began landing planes and organising convoys in Khartoum to pull out their nationals.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Twitter that the UK armed forces had completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan amid a significant escalation in violence and threats to embassy staff. Meanwhile, US officials said special forces using aircraft including MH-47 Chinook helicopters swept into Sudan’s battle-stricken capital on Saturday from a US base in Djibouti, spending just one hour on the ground to bring out fewer than 100 people.

The warring sides have accused each other of attacking a French convoy, with both claiming that one French person was wounded. France’s Foreign Ministry, which had earlier said it was evacuating diplomatic staff and citizens, did not comment. Paris said a French plane carrying approximately 100 people including the European Union delegation in Khartoum along with other nationalities had left for Djibouti, and a second plane with a similar number aboard was due to take off shortly.

The efforts to extract foreign residents have frustrated some Sudanese who feel that the rival factions show less concern for the safety of locals. “Seeing the foreigners leave made me upset because I see there’s some groups that were helped by the army and RSF, meanwhile we keep getting hit,” said Alsadig Alfatih, who on Sunday managed to leave his home for the first time since the fighting erupted and said he would head to Egypt.

Several other countries, including Germany, Italy, Ghana, India, Libya, and Iraq, are also working to bring home their people. Russia’s Ambassador to Sudan Andrey Chernovol told Al Jazeera that nearly all Russian citizens in Khartoum have been moved to the Russian embassy building. However, he said it wasn’t clear if evacuations via air were possible at the moment due to fighting at the airport.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described multiple deadly attacks on health facilities. “Paramedics, front-line nurses and doctors are often unable to access the wounded and the injured cannot reach facilities,” he tweeted. The WHO retweeted a post from Sudan’s Health Ministry on Sunday saying at least 420 people had been killed and 3,700 injured in the fighting so far.

Pope Francis has appealed for an end to the violence during his Sunday midday prayer in Rome. The fighting broke out in Khartoum, along with its adjoining sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri, and other parts of the country on April 15, four years after long-ruling leader Omar al-Bashir was toppled during a popular uprising. The army and RSF jointly staged a coup in 2021 but fell out recently during negotiations over a plan to form a civilian government and integrate the RSF into the armed forces.