Heavy fighting is continuing in Sudan’s capital Khartoum between warring factions that have plunged the country into chaos with foreign expatriates preparing to flee via military escort.
The Sudanese army said on Saturday it was coordinating efforts to evacuate diplomats from the United States, Britain, China and France out of the country on military aeroplanes.
Diplomats and their families from Saudi Arabia had already made it out of Sudan. Jordanian nationals were set to leave later.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan spoke to leaders requesting safe evacuations of their citizens and diplomats from Sudan, which has been roiled by bloody fighting for the past week.
Countries have struggled to repatriate their citizens amid deadly clashes that have killed more than 400 people so far. With Sudan’s main international airport closed, foreign countries have ordered their citizens to simply shelter in place until they can figure out evacuation plans.
Al-Burhan said diplomats from Saudi Arabia had already been evacuated from Port Sudan and airlifted back to the kingdom. He said Jordan’s diplomats would soon be evacuated in the same way.
Safe enough to venture out?
Fighting in Sudan’s capital entered a second week on Saturday as crackling gunfire shattered a temporary truce.
Al-Burhan’s army has fought the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed “Hemdti” Hamdan Dagalo.
Heavy gunfire, loud explosions and fighter jets roared in many parts of Khartoum early Saturday as terrified civilians hunkered down in their homes.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said it remains to be seen if the foreign nationals are able to make it to safety. Some trapped Sudanese, meanwhile, say they are too scared to venture out of the battle zone.
“Many people we talked to say they don’t believe it’s safe enough to venture out of their homes, with many still trapped in the vicinity of the presidential palace and military headquarters” Morgan said, adding other foreign nationals, including from Hungary, were able to evacuate via Egypt.
“While the evacuation has been planned, nobody knows if they can make it out safely to get on those planes and out of Sudan,” she said
Witnesses reported a major battle in north Khartoum between the Sudanese Armed Forces and RSF fighters involving air strikes, artillery and small-arms fire.
‘Paying the price’
Meanwhile, many civilians report basic supplies such as water and food are running out after seven days of war.
Khartoum resident Moez Ahmed told Al Jazeera in an emotion-filled voice: “I want to say to both leaders: ‘We are the civilians. We are paying the price. We are not supposed to live in this situation.’”
Sudan borders seven countries and sits between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Africa’s volatile Sahel region. The hostilities risk fanning regional tensions.
The violence was triggered by disagreement over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government four years after the fall of authoritarian leader Omar al-Bashir and two years after a military coup. Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition.
Calls for ‘complete’ ceasefire
RSF leader Hemedti said early on Saturday he received a phone call from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The two “emphasised the necessity of adhering to a complete ceasefire and providing protection for humanitarian and medical workers, especially UN staff as well as regional and international organisations”, Hemedti said in a post on his official Facebook account.
The RSF said late on Friday it was ready to partially open all of Sudan’s airports so foreign governments could evacuate their nationals.
The group said in a statement it would “cooperate, coordinate and provide all facilities that enable expatriates and missions to leave the country safely”.
It was unclear to what extent the RSF controls Sudan’s airports. The Khartoum airport has been caught in the fighting with aircraft burning on the tarmac, and commercial airlines halted flights several days ago.
More gunfire from the airport was reported on Saturday.
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