- Written by Lawrence Peter and Tiffany Wertheimer
- BBC News, London
Several countries evacuated diplomats and citizens from the Sudanese capital as heavy fighting continued in Khartoum.
The United States and the United Kingdom announced on Sunday that they had moved evacuees out of the country.
Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Japan and the Netherlands said they are following suit, starting operations on Sunday.
A French convoy reportedly came under fire as it tried to leave the embassy and had to turn back.
Sudan’s regular army and its opponents – a paramilitary force called the Rapid Support Forces – blamed each other for the attack.
Speaking to the BBC, the French authorities refused to comment on whether an attack had taken place – but said that the French military stationed in Djibouti were involved in the operation and that the aim was to transport evacuees to Djibouti.
The French Foreign Ministry said it was also evacuating its own citizens and those of the European Union and other allied countries.
More than 150 people, mostly from Gulf countries, as well as Egypt, Pakistan and Canada, have been evacuated by sea to the Saudi port of Jeddah.
US authorities said they airlifted fewer than 100 people in Chinook helicopters on Sunday morning in a “quick and clean” operation.
Contacted by reporters after the mission, Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims said more than 100 US Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces traveled from Djibouti to Ethiopia and then to Sudan, staying on the ground for less than an hour.
Although there was no official ceasefire, the RSF appears to have agreed not to fire on US helicopters while on mission.
The US Embassy in Khartoum is now closed, and a tweet on an official Twitter post says it is not safe enough for the government to evacuate US citizens.
The UK has set up a hotline for those who need urgent help, and UK nationals in Sudan are urged to tell the Foreign Office where they are.
The Canadian government has asked its citizens remaining in Sudan to “shelter in a safe place,” keep their phones charged, doors and windows closed, and “consider leaving the country if there is a safe way to do so.”
Meanwhile, there are reports that internet connectivity has almost completely collapsed in Sudan, which could seriously hamper the coordination of aid for those trapped in Khartoum and other cities.
The struggle for power witnessed heavy bombing in the capital, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.
There have been desperate calls for help from the many foreign students – from Africa, Asia and the Middle East – who are also stuck in Khartoum, a city of nearly six million.
Almost constant gunfire and shelling in Khartoum and elsewhere cut off electricity and safe access to food and water for many residents.
Several cease-fires apparently agreed by both sides have been ignored, including a three-day pause to celebrate Eid al-Fitr that began on Friday.
The World Health Organization says the fighting has killed more than 400 people and injured thousands. But the death toll is believed to be much higher as people struggle to access healthcare, with most of the city’s hospitals having to close due to the fighting.
Some UK nationals trapped in Sudan have expressed frustration and concern over the lack of an airlift.
Briton Iman Abu Garga, who is visiting Khartoum, said that she had registered herself and her two children, as instructed, “and since then – nothing.”
“We have no idea what the timeline or timeframe is. We have no idea what it will look like. Will we be flown out of Khartoum airport?” she complained.
Besides Khartoum, the western region of Darfur, where the RSF first appeared, has also been hit hard by the fighting.
The United Nations has warned that up to 20,000 people – mostly women and children – have fled Sudan to seek safety in Chad, across the border from Darfur.
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