The US conducted the first evacuation of American citizens from the Sudanese conflict
WASHINGTON (AP) – Hundreds of Americans fleeing two weeks of bloody conflict in Sudan reached a port in the east African nation in the first U.S. evacuation on Saturday, ending a perilous overland journey escorted by armed drones.
A U.S. drone, which has been monitoring overland evacuation routes for days, conducted armed surveillance on a bus convoy carrying 200 to 300 Americans more than 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, to Port Sudan, a relatively safe destination, U.S. officials said.
The U.S., which had no officials in place for the evacuation, was criticized by families of Americans detained in Sudan for initially ruling out any U.S.-led evacuation for the roughly 16,000 Americans in Sudan who wanted to leave.
US special operations forces made a short flight to the capital, Khartoum, on April 22 to airlift American staff from the embassy and other US government officials. More than a dozen other countries are using military aircraft, naval vessels and ground personnel to evacuate their citizens.
REVIEW: Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Sudan, where the humanitarian situation has worsened due to violence
A wide-ranging group of international mediators, including African and Arab countries, the United Nations, and the United States, managed to broker several fragile temporary ceasefires that not only stopped the fighting but brought enough peace for dozens of people. thousands of Sudanese to flee to safer areas and foreigners to evacuate thousands of their citizens by land, air and sea.
Since the standoff between the two rival generals began on April 15, the United States has warned its citizens to find a way to leave the country, although U.S. officials have tried to link Americans to evacuation efforts by other countries. But that changed as U.S. officials took advantage of the relative lull in the fighting to organize their own convoy for Americans from afar, officials said.
Without the evacuation flights near the capital that other countries offer their citizens, many US citizens are left to make the perilous overland journey from Khartoum to Port Sudan, the country’s main port on the Red Sea. One Sudanese-American family who had traveled earlier described passing through multiple checkpoints manned by gunmen and cars of other fleeing families who had died along the road with bodies lying in the streets.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the convoy included U.S. citizens, local residents employed by the U.S. and citizens of allied countries. “We repeat our warning to Americans not to go to Sudan,” he said.
Americans in convoy can seek places on ships crossing the Red Sea from Port Sudan, where they are fighting, to the Saudi port of Jeddah. U.S. officials are also working with Saudi Arabia to see if one of the Kingdom’s navy ships can take more Americans to Jeddah.
REVIEW: Nations are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from Sudan as the war escalates
Officials said US consular staff would be waiting for the Americans when they arrived at the dock in Jeddah, but there were no US staff at Port Sudan.
Two Americans have been confirmed killed in the fighting, which began on April 15. One of them was an American civilian, officials said, during the shooting. The other was a doctor from Iowa who was stabbed to death in front of his home and family in Khartoum during the lawless violence that accompanied the war.
In total, the fighting in the East African country has claimed the lives of more than 500 people.
The US airlifted out all its diplomats and military personnel and closed its embassy on April 22. It still left several thousand US citizens in Sudan, many of them dual nationals.
The Biden administration has warned that it has no plans to participate in organizing the evacuation of ordinary US citizens who want to move to other countries, calling it too risky. There were no known US government officials assisting the convoy in Sudan.
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