President Biden said late Saturday that the United States military airlifted embassy officials from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, amid continuing violence as rival military leaders battle for control of Africa’s third-largest country.

“Today, on my orders, the United States military conducted an operation to evacuate American government personnel from Khartoum,” Mr. Biden said A statement issued by the White House,

A US official familiar with the matter said the military airlifted about 70 US embassy staff using helicopters and a V-22 Osprey – an aircraft that can take off from a site near the embassy after sunset and land vertically. Can descend from form. The official said Navy SEAL Team 6 Special Forces was involved.

The move came on the eighth day of brutal fighting in the capital and other parts of the country between the army and a paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Force, whose leaders are vying for supremacy in Sudan.

With the airport in the capital badly damaged by shelling and the closure of the country’s airspace, the evacuation was a daring move. The Pentagon has deployed more troops in recent days to prepare for defenses in the country near Djibouti, where a US military base is based.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said that using an airlift for emergency evacuation was deemed necessary because the alternative – a convoy through the city to its airport, which There was a scene of heavy fighting – was seen very dangerous. Mr Biden also thanked Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, saying they were vital to the operation’s success.

“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 engagement with the people of Sudan,” Mr. Biden said. “I am grateful for the exceptional skills of our service members who successfully brought them to safety.”

In a separate statement released by the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also praised the troops involved in the operation.

“This action, led by US Africa Command and conducted in close coordination with the US State Department, demonstrates the Department of Defense’s support for our nation’s diplomatic personnel,” he said. “I am proud of our exceptional service members who executed and supported this operation with outstanding precision and professionalism.”

The announcement sparked confusion after Sudan’s military chief vowed to help relocate citizens of several countries, including the United States, but the embassy said at the time that it was too dangerous to evacuate its citizens.

According to the United Nations, at least 400 people have been killed and 3,500 injured in the ensuing clashes. At least 256 civilians were killed and 1,454 were injured, according to a doctors’ union.

The fighting has trapped many people in homes without electricity, food or water, and doctors and hospitals say they are struggling to cope.

Countless residents of Khartoum have fled the city to seek refuge in safer suburbs and states where corpses line the streets. More than 15,000 people in the western region of Darfur have fled to neighboring Chad, and humanitarian organizations have reported being unable to operate amid continuing fighting.

Aid workers and diplomats, who have often been able to stay off the field in the past, have found themselves targets this time around. The World Food Program said three of its workers were killed. Last week a US convoy was attacked, and the EU ambassador to Sudan was attacked in his home.

The army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is Sudan’s de facto leader, said in a statement on Saturday morning that his forces would help evacuate diplomats and civilians from Britain, China, France and the United States. coming hours.

However, shortly thereafter, the US Embassy said in a security alert that “due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and the closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to conduct a private evacuation of American citizens coordinated by the US government.”

But hours later, a Twitter account purportedly run by the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, led by Gen. Burhan’s rival, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Hamdan, announced in a statement that they had assisted US forces in evacuating all embassy personnel and their families. It was

“Rapid Support Forces Command coordinated with a US military mission consisting of 6 aircraft to evacuate the diplomats and their families on Sunday morning.” statement Said. (Twitter removed the authentication last week, but the account had a significant number of followers and appeared to be legitimate.)

The embassy in Khartoum declined to say how many Americans are in the country. But a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the embassy had counted about 19,000 Americans in Sudan during the COVID pandemic, many of whom were dual citizens.

Many countries have stationed planes in neighboring countries, ready to take off when airports are free. According to an estimate, the aircraft will be able to carry 4,000 people in total.

But any flights in and out of Khartoum are risky. The area around the airport, including the military headquarters, has been the site of some of the most intense fighting over the past week. Locals said the firing continued in several parts of the city, including the airport, on Saturday morning.

There is also a lot of risk involved in road travel. Khartoum is 600 miles from the border with Egypt and 525 miles from Port Sudan on the Red Sea – roughly the same distance from New York City to Columbus, Ohio, but through areas fought by both sides.

Foreigners and wealthy Sudanese have turned to private security companies to help them escape Khartoum, but the risk remains. The security official said a convoy carrying 17 people had made the 14-hour journey from the city on Friday, only to arrive in a heavily contested area where gun battles continued on Saturday.

Earlier, General al-Burhan said that Saudi Arabian diplomats had been evacuated by land to Port Sudan, in the east of the country, and Jordanian citizens were taken to Saudi Arabia with a similar operation. Hungary’s foreign minister said on Saturday that there are 14 Hungarian citizens and 48 foreign nationals, mostly Americans and italian citizenThe sea routes had been evacuated and were on their way to Egypt.

As the conflict continued, Sudan’s health care system was faltering, and there were few signs that the two warring factions would stop fighting. According to the Physicians Association, out of 78 major hospitals in the country, only 55 are functioning.

“The health care system is about to collapse,” Mohamed Isa, secretary general of the Sudanese American Physicians Association, a United States-based nonprofit, said in a telephone interview from Khartoum. “We must secure a safe passage for the wounded.”

The gunfire had stopped on Friday evening, giving Khartoum residents hope that a break was in sight. Dr Isa said he fell asleep for the first time at his home in southern Khartoum, where fighting continues.

This did not last long.

On Saturday morning, he woke up to the sound of gunfire and heavy machinery. “It was like nothing had happened,” he said of dashed hopes for some relief.

continuously Contributed reporting from Paris.

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