Multiple nations scrambled to evacuate foreign citizens by air out of Sudan’s battle-stricken capital, Khartoum.
Since April 15, 2023, Sudan has been embroiled in a bloody conflict between the army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, de facto ruler of Sudan since his coup in 2021, and his former deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, commanding a militia called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Khartoum International Airport (KRT) was heavily damaged in the fights, causing the destruction of many aircraft. Consequently, European nations had to move their operation to Wadi Seidna Air Base, a military facility controlled by the Sudanese Air Force 20 kilometers north of the capital city.
The land convoy evacuating people out of Khartoum on April 23, 2023, was reportedly targeted by gunfire, injuring at least one French national. The RSF accused Sudanese forces of having conducted airstrikes on the vehicles, though nothing was confirmed by the French authorities.
After coordinating a fragile ceasefire with both the Sudanese government and the RSF militia, Emmanuel Macron and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs triggered Operation “Sagittaire”. About 150 soldiers were mobilized to secure the exfiltration of foreigners.
On April 23, 2023, two evacuation flights between Sudan and Djibouti were conducted by the French Air Force, using an Airbus A400M transport aircraft. More rotations are expected to take place in the following days.
In total, 388 people were evacuated, including not only French nationals, but also citizens from other EU member states, African, and Asian countries, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for the Armed Forces reported in a joint statement. The diplomatic staff of the European Union delegation in Sudan was also evacuated by the French military.
A French Air Force A330 MRTT “Phénix” multi-role transport aircraft was used to take the evacuees from Djibouti back to their home country.
Over 1,000 EU citizens evacuated from Sudan
France was not the only foreign nation evacuating foreign citizens. The Spanish Air Force also conducted several rotations between Sudan and Djibouti, while the German Luftwaffe used Jordan as its evacuation hub. Both used Airbus A400M airlifters to fly in and out of Wadi Seidna Air Base.
Spain evacuated 142 foreigners while the Luftwaffe has flown out 311 people. Spaniards were then airlifted out of Djibouti using an A330 MRTT while Germany used a military A321 passenger airplane out of the Al Azrak base in Jordan.
The Italian military reported having evacuated about 200 people, including members of the embassy of the Vatican in Sudan, towards Djibouti.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reported that over 1,000 EU citizens have been evacuated from Sudan.
US President Joe Biden announced that special forces conducted “an operation to extract US Government personnel from Khartoum.”
“This tragic violence in Sudan has already cost the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable and it must stop.”
South Korea has positioned a military aircraft in the US base of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti to evacuate its 25 nationals in Sudan.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Twitter that British diplomats have been evacuated from Sudan.
“UK armed forces have completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan, amid a significant escalation in violence and threats to embassy staff,” the PM said. “We are continuing to pursue every avenue to end the bloodshed in Sudan and ensure the safety of British nationals remaining in the country.”
Another land convoy to Port Sudan was used by the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and Egypt, to evacuate more foreign citizens.