Special forces evacuate US embassy staff
WASHINGTON — U.S. special operations forces carried out a precarious evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Sudan on Sunday, sweeping in and out of the capital with helicopters on the ground for less than an hour. No shots were fired and no major casualties were reported.
With the final embassy employee out of Khartoum, the United States shuttered its diplomatic mission indefinitely. Remaining behind in the East African nation are thousands of private American citizens. U.S. officials said it would be too dangerous to carry out a broader evacuation operation.
Battles between two rival Sudanese commanders had forced the closing of the main international airport and left roads out of the country in control of armed fighters. The skirmishes has killed more than 400 people.
In a statement thanking the troops, President Joe Biden said he was receiving regular reports from his team on efforts to assist remaining Americans in Sudan “to the extent possible.”
He also called for the end to “unconscionable” violence there.
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‘Courage and professionalism’: About 100 U.S. troops in three MH-47 helicopters carried out the operation. They airlifted all of roughly 70 remaining American employees from a landing zone at the embassy to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia also provided overflight and refueling support, said Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
Biden said Djibouti and Saudi Arabia provided assistance, too.
“I am proud of the extraordinary commitment of our Embassy staff, who performed their duties with courage and professionalism and embodied America’s friendship and connection with the people of Sudan,” Biden said in a statement. “I am grateful for the unmatched skill of our service members who successfully brought them to safety.”
U.S. Africa Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, were in contact with the factions before and during the operation to ensure that U.S. forces would have safe passage to conduct the evacuation. John Bass, an undersecretary of state, denied claims by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Security Forces that it assisted in the U.S. evacuation.
“They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation,” Bass said.
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No end in sight: Biden had ordered American troops to evacuate embassy personnel after receiving a recommendation from his national security team, with no end in sight to the fighting.
“This tragic violence in Sudan has already cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. It’s unconscionable and it must stop,” Biden said. “The belligerent parties must implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and respect the will of the people of Sudan.”
Sudan’s fighting broke out April 15 between two commanders who just 18 months earlier jointly orchestrated a military coup to derail the nation’s transition to democracy.
The power struggle between the armed forces chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the head of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, has millions of Sudanese cowering inside their homes.
The violence has included an unprovoked attack on an American diplomatic convoy and numerous incidents in which foreign diplomats and aid workers were killed, injured or assaulted.
An estimated 16,000 private U.S. citizens are registered with the embassy as being in Sudan. The figure is rough because not all Americans register with embassy or say when they depart.