US to evacuate citizens in Sudan via overland convoy

WASHINGTON — The United States is working to get US citizens in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on a convoy to Port Sudan as soon as Friday, according to emails sent to US citizens in Sudan that were reviewed by Al-Monitor. 

“The US government is planning to assist US nationals and immediate family members with a valid US travel document to depart Khartoum for Port Sudan in the coming days, possibly as early as tomorrow, via an overland convoy,” read an email sent to US citizens in Sudan who registered their information with the Embassy. 

“Travel within Sudan is conducted at your own risk, and plans may change depending on the security situation,” the email read. “The US government is unable to guarantee your safety.” 

The email, which was sent Thursday evening Khartoum time, came as White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the situation in Sudan is unlikely to improve. 

“We encourage citizens who want to leave to take advantage of the options that are available to them in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday.  

An estimated 16,000 US citizens, most of them dual nationals, are located in Sudan, where heavy clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces have killed at least two US citizens since mid-April. 

The United States evacuated its diplomatic personnel from Khartoum on Saturday, but US citizens were told not to expect a government-coordinated evacuation operation. 

However, this week the Biden administration positioned US navy ships off Sudan’s Red Sea coast to assist in a potential evacuation, and placed intelligence and surveillance assets over land routes out of Khartoum. The US government has also established a task force of consular officers in Washington to communicate with US citizens in Sudan. 

Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said Thursday there are no American troops on the ground in Sudan to facilitate evacuations, but that the US military is working to provide support for overland routes. 

“In looking to facilitate that land route, we would be working with the State Department to employ local nationals that are associated with the State Department to assist in that process, as well as contracted capability,” Ryder said. 

A “relatively small number” of Americans have indicated they want to leave Sudan, Ryder said, adding that the number could rise as the situation on the ground deteriorates. 

On Thursday, the warring parties agreed to extend the current cease-fire by three days. Despite the truce, the fighting has continued in Khartoum and elsewhere in the African country. According to the Sudanese health ministry, at least 512 people have been killed and 4,193 wounded in the fighting since April 15. 

Jared Szuba contributed to this report. 

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