US government personnel forcibly evacuated from Sudan, embassy closed
MidstIn Sudan, which has killed hundreds of people, the US military has successfully evacuated American government employees from the US embassy in Khartoum, the White House said late Saturday night. In a statement following the evacuation, President Biden confirmed that the US was “temporarily suspending” operations at the embassy.
Mr. Biden announced that he ordered the extraction operation and was “grateful for the unmatched skills of our service members who “successfully got US diplomats “to safety.”
The State Department also confirmed the temporary closure of the US embassy, adding that “due to the current security situation, the US government is unable to provide routine or emergency consular services to US citizens in Sudan.”
In a statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called the evacuation a “successful operation” and thanked “our allies and partners, including Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia.”
The details of the extraction — and the exact number of people evacuated — were unclear. Sudanese paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) tweeted that the US military deployed six planes to conduct the evacuation early Sunday morning local time. It was unclear if diplomats from other nations were included.
Sources familiar with the matter previously told CBS News that the evacuation of about 70 US government employees had been in the planning stages throughout the week.
It was still unclear what would happen to the dozens of local non-American staff employed at the embassy.
Referring to American civilians still trapped in Sudan, Mr. Biden said he receives “regular reports from” his “team” about their ongoing work to help Americans in Sudan as much as possible. We are also working closely with our allies and partners in this effort.”
There are hundreds of American civilians in Sudan — 500 was the number given to congressional sources. The State Department acknowledges that some records show there may be as many as 16,000 US citizens in Sudan, but officials say the numbers are exaggerated.
Sources familiar with the planning had told CBS News prior to the evacuation of embassy employees that American civilians would not be included in that evacuation. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had said Friday that operations were underway at the time to move US government personnel to the relative safety of the embassy and that American civilians were responsible for their own safety and exit from the country be.
Kirby had acknowledged that the personnel movements were part of preparing for an evacuation. “We want to be prepared for that eventuality if it does,” but warned that “it’s a very dangerous situation in Khartoum as fighting continues.”
An American-flagged US diplomatic convoy was fired upon April 17 while security forces attempted to escort the Americans back to the compound. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it a “reckless” and “irresponsible” act and said forces allied with RSF – a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – likely fired the shots.
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement to CBS News Saturday night that “there will be consequences for those who interfere with the safe transit of American citizens, including our diplomats.” who are fleeing indiscriminate violence in Khartoum and across Sudan.”
McCaul called on “regional partners to support the safe evacuation of civilians from Sudan.”
Intense fights between latest numbers Saturday by the World Health Organization, at least 420 people have died in Sudan since violence erupted earlier this month. An American citizen was killed in the fighting on Thursday, the State Department said.erupted earlier this month. Although several ceasefires have been declared, . According to the
The Pentagon had confirmed that special operators had been deployed to Djibouti to assist with exits. The Department of Defense also said it was on standby.
“We’ve dispatched some forces into the theater to make sure we offer as many options as possible when we’re asked to do something and we haven’t yet been asked to do anything. No decision has been made on anything yet,” Austin told reporters at a news conference Friday.
The Sudanese Armed Forces posted on Facebook on Friday that their General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has received calls from the leaders of several countries to allow their citizens and diplomatic staff to evacuate. The post said that al-Burhan has agreed to provide the necessary assistance and that the evacuation of diplomats from the US, UK, France and China is expected to begin immediately.
RSF tweeted Friday that they are ready to partially open all airports to friendly countries that want to evacuate their citizens. Khartoum’s international airport has been closed for several days, according to the foreign ministry, as has Sudan’s border with neighboring Chad.
The Sudanese armed forces and RSF have been at odds since April 8, when al-Burhan dissolved a power-sharing council and announced his intention to hold elections this year.
Until recently, the two groups were allies, whose leadership combined in 2019 to overthrow Sudan’s brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir. The return to civilian rule comes with deciding which general will be subordinate to the other. That decision sparked fierce fighting earlier this month and conditions in Sudan’s cities have deteriorated.
– David Martin, Margaret Brennan, Christina Ruffini, Eleanor Watson, Haley Ott, and Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report.