Sudan fighting: Foreign nationals to be evacuated – army

Heavy smoke billows above buildings in the vicinity of the Khartoum airport on April 15, 2023

Khartoum’s international airport has been caught up in the fighting

Diplomats and nationals from the UK, US, France and China are to be evacuated from Sudan by air as fighting there continues, a statement from the Sudanese army says.

Army chief Fattah al-Burhan agreed to facilitate and secure their evacuation “in the coming hours”, it said.

He is locked in a bitter power struggle with the leader of a rival paramilitary faction, the Rapid Support Forces.

Hundreds of people have been killed in a week of fighting across the country.

Previous plans to evacuate foreign nationals have not been implemented because of safety fears.

A statement from the army said British, US, French and Chinese nationals and diplomats would be evacuated by air on board military transport planes from the capital, Khartoum.

Saudi Arabia has also announced it is arranging the evacuation of its citizens and nationals of “brotherly” countries.

The Sudanese army said Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic mission had already been evacuated by land to Port Sudan and from there by air to Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s diplomatic mission will be next to be secured, it added.

Khartoum’s international airport has been closed due to the violence, with foreign embassies – including the UK and US – unable to bring their citizens home.

The conflict has entered its second week despite both sides – the army and the RSF – agreeing to a three-day ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, starting from Friday.

Sporadic gunfire and air strikes were heard in the capital on Saturday despite the truce.

A former foreign minister, Mariam al-Mahdi, who is sheltering in Khartoum told the BBC the ceasefire was “not taking at all”.

“We are out of electricity for the last 24 hours. We are out of water for the last six days,” she said.

Medical teams are being targeted in the fighting, she said, adding: “There are rotting bodies of our youth in the streets.”

People gather at the station to flee from Khartoum during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum, Sudan April 19, 2023.

Thousands of people have been trying to flee Sudan since the violent clashes began

Fierce street battles erupted in Khartoum on 15 April after disagreements emerged between the leaders of both sides – General Burhan and the RSF’s Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo – over how Sudan should be run.

They both held top positions in Sudan’s current military government, formed after the 2019 coup that ousted long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

They were supposed to merge their forces but the RSF resisted this change, mobilising its troops which escalated into full-scale fighting last week.

The World Health Organization says more than 400 people have been killed. The death toll is believed to be much higher as people struggle to reach hospitals.

Thousands of people, mainly civilians, have also been injured, with medical centres under pressure to deal with the influx of patients.

Along with Khartoum, the western region of Darfur, where the RSF first emerged, has also been badly affected by the fighting.

The UN has warned that up to 20,000 people – mostly women and children – have fled Sudan to seek safety in Chad, across the border from Darfur.