(trendingpoliticsnews) – The United States has started the process of its first mass evacuation of citizens from Khartoum, the capital and largest city in Sudan. The city has been engulfed in heavy fighting between the Sudanese government and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary organization for weeks. There are an estimated 15,000 American citizens living in Sudan, most of them dual citizens.
According to a report from ABC News, a government-organized convoy carrying U.S. citizens and foreign nationals from allied nations arrived in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on Saturday. The State Department later reported that a second convoy had arrived in the city on Sunday.
“We continue to assist U.S. citizens and others who are eligible with onward travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where additional U.S. personnel are positioned to assist with consular and emergency services,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement Sunday.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. citizens have left the Northeast African nation since fighting between the two rival military factions broke out, Miller added. “Fewer than 5,000 US citizens who have sought guidance from the government,” he said.
The State Department has urged American citizens to leave the rapidly deteriorating nation and stressed its commitment to evacuating American nationals. Current evacuation options include “partner-country flights and convoys,” as well as U.S.-organized travel and seats on departing ships.
“The U.S. government has taken extensive efforts to contact U.S. citizens in Sudan and enable the departure of those who wished to leave. We messaged every U.S. citizen in Sudan who communicated with us during the crisis and provided specific instructions about joining this convoy to those who were interested in departing via the land route,” the State Department said in a statement Saturday. “We encourage U.S. citizens who want to leave Sudan but chose not to participate in this convoy to contact the Department of State using the crisis intake form on our website.”
Roughly 70 U.S. embassy staff members were evacuated in a helicopter mission supported by elite SEAL units shortly after fighting broke out. The White House has stated that the operation went “smoothly,” but has faced questions about the remaining 15,000 U.S. citizens still in the country.
The White House had previously told American citizens that they could not count on a U.S.-sponsored evacuation from the country. “It is not our standard procedure to evacuate American citizens living abroad,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last Friday.
In a security alert this past Tuesday, reiterated 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.”
Citizens who wish to leave are encouraged to find their own way to Port Sudan, where they can take a ferry to Saudi Arabia. Several other nations are also conducting evacuations from the port city.