Saudi announces first civilian evacuations from Sudan

The boat docked at the Red Sea port of Jeddah alongside four other ships carrying 108 people from other countries


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Published: Sat 22 Apr 2023, 5:41 PM

Last updated: Sat 22 Apr 2023, 11:08 PM

More than 150 people from various nations reached the safety of Saudi Arabia Saturday in the first announced evacuation of civilians from Sudan, where fighting between the army and paramilitaries entered a second week following a brief lull.

Foreign nations have said they are preparing for the potential evacuation of thousands more of their nationals, even though Sudan's main airport remains closed.

Fighting has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded while survivors cope with shortages of electricity and food.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry announced the "safe arrival" of 91 of its citizens along with nationals from Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, the Philipines, Canada and Burkina Faso.

As the kingdom's naval forces transported the civilians, including diplomats and international officials, across the Red Sea from Port Sudan to Jeddah, fighting resumed in Sudan's capital Khartoum after a temporary truce saw gunfire momentarily die down on Friday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr.

Eid is normally a major celebration for Sudanese marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

This year it is marked by fear, grief and hunger.

Earlier on Saturday, Sudan's army said its chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had received calls from leaders of multiple countries to "facilitate and guarantee safety for evacuating citizens and diplomatic missions".

It noted that the evacuations were expected to begin "in the coming hours", adding that the US, Britain, France and China are planning to airlift their nationals out of Khartoum using military planes.

Burhan told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the army was in control of "all airports, except for Khartoum airport" and one in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

Eid is meant to be spent "with sweets and pastries, with happy children, and people greeting relatives", Khartoum resident Sami al-Nour told AFP.

Instead, there has been "gunfire and the stench of blood all around us".

Urban warfare began on April 15 between forces loyal to Burhan and those of his deputy-turned-rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. He commands the heavily armed paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which emerged from the Janjaweed fighters unleashed in Darfur by former strongman Omar al-Bashir, drawing accusations of war crimes.

The former allies seized power in a 2021 coup but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.


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