Top US, Sudanese generals speak as Washington considers possible embassy evacuation
US General Mark Milley held discussions with his Sudanese counterpart General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan over the safety of US citizens in the African country, as Washington thinks about a possible embassy evacuation amid intense fighting in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and other cities as well.
The US military is preparing options to evacuate the embassy, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Friday, stressing no decision on anything has been made yet.
Two US officials said a decision on a possible embassy evacuation was expected soon but it was unclear if there would be a public announcement.
Clashes continued in the capital on Friday despite the army saying it had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire with the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to enable people to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. The RSF mentioned earlier in the day that it had agreed to a truce to mark the Muslim holiday.
According to witnesses, fighting had eased in some parts of Khartoum on Friday evening, the French news agency AFP reported. There had been a pause in the violence during Friday night but it couldn’t be called a truce, Al Jazeera cited Khartoum-based journalist and analyst Mohamed Alamin Ahmed as saying.
With the skies unsafe and the Khartoum airport in the middle of the fighting, a number of nations, including the US, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Germany, have been unable to initiate the evacuation of their embassies in Sudan.
The international community is possibly focused on getting a ceasefire and using that to get embassy staff out.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said US President Joe Biden has approved a plan to station American forces nearby in case they are needed for the evacuation of US diplomats, without revealing the location. Reuters news agency had earlier reported their repositioning to Djibouti.
Washington has said private US citizens in the African country should not expect a US government-coordinated evacuation. US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said authorities were in constant touch with hundreds of Americans understood to be in the country.
The UN has roughly 4,000 staff in the country, including 800 international staff. It has been trying to move its members from risky zones to safer ones.
Meanwhile, Switzerland is examining ways to evacuate nationals, while Sweden said it will get both embassy staff and families out as soon as possible. Spain’s military aircraft are on standby, while South Korea sent its aircraft to a US military base in Djibouti to remain on standby and evacuate its nationals whenever the situation allows.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 400 people have been killed in the fighting across Sudan so far, while over 3,500 have sustained injuries to various severities. But the death toll is likely to be higher.
Analysts have raised concerns over the violence in Sudan possibly affecting other countries in the region, with the UN saying up to 20,000 people have already fled the country for neighbouring Chad.