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Biden says US embassy evacuation in Sudan has been completed

WASHINGTON (AP) — American forces carried out a precarious evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel in Sudan, President Joe Biden said late Saturday, calling for the end to “unconscionable” violence there as two rival leaders battled for power in the African country.

Biden thanked the U.S. troops who carried out the mission to extract American staffers in Sudan. With the last American embassy worker out, Washington shuttered the U.S. mission in Khartoum indefinitely.

The U.S. said it had no current plans for a government-coordinated evacuation of an estimated 16,000 other Americans remaining in Sudan, calling the situation too dangerous.

Biden said he was receiving regular reports from his team on efforts to assist those remaining Americans in Sudan “to the extent possible.”

The roughly 70 American staffers were airlifted from a landing zone at the embassy to an undisclosed location in Ethiopia, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the mission. U.S. troops carried out the operation as fighting between two armed Sudanese commanders —which has killed more than 400, put the nation at risk of collapse and could have consequences far beyond its borders—moved into a second week.

“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.”

Biden also thanked Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia for their help with the mission.

Biden ordered American troops to evacuate embassy personnel after receiving a recommendation earlier Saturday 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.”

The State Department has suspended operations at the embassy due to the dire security situation. It was not clear when the embassy might resume functioning.

“The widespread fighting has caused significant numbers of civilian deaths and injuries and damage to essential infrastructure and posed an unacceptable risk to our Embassy personnel,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The fighting erupted April 15 between two factions whose leaders are vying for control over the country. 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.

Biden said he was receiving regular reports from his team on efforts to assist those remaining Americans in Sudan “to the extent possible.”

The embassy issued an alert earlier Saturday cautioning that “due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of private U.S. citizens.”

Fighting in Sudan between forces loyal to two top generals has put that nation at risk of collapse and could have consequences far beyond its borders.

The fighting, which began as Sudan attempted to transition to democracy, already has left millions trapped in urban areas, sheltering from gunfire, explosions and looters.

Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan said Saturday he would facilitate the evacuation of American, British, Chinese and French citizens and diplomats from Sudan after speaking with the leaders of several countries that had requested help. The rival Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, in a Twitter posting said it cooperated with U.S. forces.

The U.S. evacuation planning got underway in earnest on Monday after the embassy convoy was attacked in Khartoum. The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that U.S. troops were being moved to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti ahead of a possible evacuation.

Saudi Arabia announced the successful repatriation of some of its citizens on Saturday, sharing footage of Saudi nationals and other foreigners welcomed with chocolate and flowers as they stepped off an apparent evacuation ship at the Saudi port of Jeddah.

Embassy evacuations conducted by the U.S. military are relatively rare and usually take place only under extreme conditions.

When it orders an embassy to draw down staff or suspend operations, the State Department prefers to have its personnel leave on commercial transportation if that is an option. When the embassy in Kyiv temporarily closed just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022, staffers used commercial transport to leave.

However, in several other recent cases, notably in Afghanistan in 2021, conditions made commercial departures impossible or extremely hazardous. U.S. troops accompanied personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, in an overland convoy to Tunisia when they evacuated in 2014.

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