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The U.S. evacuates some 1,000 Americans from Sudan

Smoke rises in Khartoum, Sudan, on Saturday, as gunfire and heavy artillery fire continued despite the extension of a ceasefire between the country's two top generals.
Marwan Ali
/
AP
Smoke rises in Khartoum, Sudan, on Saturday, as gunfire and heavy artillery fire continued despite the extension of a ceasefire between the country's two top generals.

Updated April 30, 2023 at 6:10 PM ET

A convoy of hundreds of Americans arrived in a port city in eastern Sudan on Saturday, the State Department said, in the first U.S.-led evacuation effort of private U.S. citizens since deadly fighting erupted in the country two weeks ago.

On Sunday, one day later, a second convoy also arrived in Port Sudan, bringing the total number of U.S. citizens the State Department and its allies have helped depart the country since the start of the violence to 1,000.

"We continue to assist U.S. citizens and others who are eligible with onward travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where additional U.S. personnel are positioned to assist with consular and emergency services," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement Sunday.

"Departure options for U.S. citizens have included seats on partner country flights, partner country and international organization convoys, U.S. government organized convoys, and departure via sea as well," Miller added.

Buses carrying 300 people reached Port Sudan on Saturday after leaving the capital of Khartoum late Friday.

That group of mostly Americans — along with some Germans, Norwegians and local staff — were driven on seven buses contracted by the U.S. and monitored by armed drones on the journey, a Pentagon official told NPR. The U.S. government contracted 16 buses total.

Conflict between rival generals from the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has killed more than 500 people and injured more than 4,000 others since fighting broke out on April 15. Bombings and gun battles have rattled Khartoum, devastating buildings in residential neighborhoods.

The RSF assisted the convoy with three vehicles to help get the buses safely through checkpoints, according to a Pentagon official.

Some 16,000 Americans had been registered in Sudan before the convoys' departures. Families of trapped Americans in Sudan have criticized the U.S. for initially ruling out a U.S.-run evacuation, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. is among several countries to have closed their embassies and evacuated their staff and families.

On Sunday, the United Nations said it was sending Humanitarian Affairs chief Martin Griffiths to the region, where food, water, fuel and other supplies are dwindling as the fighting rages on.

"The scale and speed of what is unfolding is unprecedented in Sudan," UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement. "We are extremely concerned by the immediate as well as long-term impact on all people in Sudan, and the broader region."

From Port Sudan, the Americans can cross the Red Sea to a port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Miller said in a statement on Saturday.

"The U.S. government has taken extensive efforts to contact U.S. citizens in Sudan and enable the departure of those who wished to leave," the statement read. "We messaged every U.S. citizen in Sudan who communicated with us during the crisis and provided specific instructions about joining this convoy to those who were interested in departing via the land route. We encourage U.S. citizens who want to leave Sudan but chose not to participate in this convoy to contact the Department of State using the crisis intake form on our website."

The Pentagon has assisted the evacuation by deploying intelligence and surveillance support, "and we are moving naval assets within the region to provide any necessary support along the coast," according to a statement on Saturday from Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.

A U.S. official told NPR American ships are just off Port Sudan, but not in the port itself. The official said there are no State Department or U.S. military personnel at the Port.

The U.S. has repeated its warning to Americans not to travel to Sudan.

NPR's Michele Kelemen contributed reporting.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.
Joe Hernandez
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