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US embassy staff in war-torn Sudan rescued by special forces

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On Saturday evening, US officials announced that US Army Special Forces had evacuated the US embassy in Sudan, amid violent unrest.

Using helicopters, the operation lasted less than an hour, during which no shots were fired and there were no major casualties.

With the last American employee of the embassy out, Washington closed the US mission in Khartoum indefinitely. Thousands of Americans remain in Sudan behind, as officials say it would be too risky to carry out a broader evacuation mission.

In a statement thanking the troops, US President Joe Biden said he receives regular reports from his team on efforts to assist those Americans remaining in Sudan “to the extent possible.”

He also called for an end to the “unconscionable” violence there as two rival leaders vie for power in the African country.

About 100 American soldiers in three MH-47 helicopters carried out the operation as fighting between two armed Sudanese commanders — which has killed more than 400, put the nation at risk of collapse and could have consequences far beyond its borders — has entered its second week. .

Biden said he has received regular reports from his team about efforts to help Americans remaining in Sudan “to the extent possible.”

Approximately 70 American personnel were flown from a landing area at the embassy to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia, according to two US officials familiar with the mission.

“I am proud of the extraordinary commitment of our embassy staff, who have performed their duties with courage and professionalism and exemplified America’s friendship and connection with the people of Sudan,” Biden said. “I am grateful for the unparalleled skill of our service personnel who successfully carried them to safety.”

Biden also thanked Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia for their assistance with the mission.

Biden ordered US forces to evacuate embassy staff after he received a recommendation earlier Saturday from his national security team with no end in sight to the fight.

This tragic violence in Sudan has already taken the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. “It’s unbelievable and it needs to stop,” Biden said. “The warring parties must implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people of Sudan.”

Due to the dire security situation, the State Department suspended operations at the embassy. However, it is not clear when the embassy will resume work.

Fighting broke out on April 15 between two factions whose leaders are vying for control of the country. The violence included an unprovoked attack on a US diplomatic convoy and several incidents in which foreign diplomats and aid workers were killed, injured or assaulted.

An estimated 16,000 US citizens are registered with the embassy as being in Sudan. However, the number is approximate because not all Americans register with the embassy or say when they leave.

The embassy earlier Saturday issued an alert that “due to the volatile security situation in Khartoum and the closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to conduct a US government-coordinated evacuation of private US citizens.”

Fighting in Sudan between forces loyal to two top generals has put the country in danger of collapse and could have consequences far beyond its borders.

The fighting, which began as Sudan attempted a transition to democracy, has left millions trapped in urban areas, sheltering from gunfire, explosions and looting.

The army chief, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said on Saturday that he would facilitate the evacuation of US, British, Chinese and French citizens and diplomats from Sudan after speaking with the leaders of several countries that had asked for help. The rival Rapid Support Forces said in a tweet that it had cooperated with US forces.

The US evacuation plan began in earnest on Monday after the embassy convoy was attacked in Khartoum. The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that US forces had been moved to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti ahead of a possible evacuation.

Saudi Arabia announced the successful repatriation of some of its citizens on Saturday, releasing footage of Saudi citizens and other foreigners being greeted with chocolates and flowers as they disembarked from what appeared to be an evacuation ship at the Saudi port of Jeddah.

Embassy evacuations by the US military are relatively rare and usually only occur under extreme circumstances.

When an embassy orders a withdrawal of personnel or a suspension of operations, the State Department prefers to allow its staff to depart on commercial transportation if that is an option. For example, when the embassy in Kyiv temporarily closed before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, employees used commercial transportation to leave.

However, in many other recent cases, particularly in Afghanistan in 2021, circumstances have made commercial departures impossible or extremely dangerous. US forces accompanied staff from the US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on a road convoy to Tunisia when they were evacuated in 2014.

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