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Sudan Rivals Okay Evacuations as Clashes Continue


Plumes of smoke rises over the city of Khartoum, as conflict between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army continues, as filmed from Omdurman, Sudan April 21, 2023,

KHARTOUM — Evacuations of foreign nationals in battle-scarred Sudan got underway Saturday as fighting between the forces of rival generals in the capital Khartoum entered a second week following a brief lull.

Saudi Arabia evacuated its citizens and other nationals in the first major rescue operation for civilians since fighting broke out last week, according to Saudi state television.

"The first evacuation vessel from Sudan has arrived (in Jeddah), carrying 50 citizens and a number of nationals from friendly countries," the official Al-Ekhbariyah television said.

Another 108 people from 11 countries were expected to arrive later in the day aboard four other ships, it added.

Sudan's army said earlier on Saturday it had agreed to help evacuate foreign nationals as gunfire and air strikes echoed across Khartoum despite promises by warring sides to cease fire for three days after a week of strife that has killed hundreds.

The statement citing army chief Abdel Fatteh al-Burhan came after promises by rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, to open airports for evacuations.

The army said the United States, Britain, France and China would evacuate diplomats and other nationals from Khartoum "in the coming hours."

Residents of Khartoum's adjoining sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri said fighting intensified late on Saturday morning after a relative lull, with air strikes near the state broadcaster and gun battles in several areas.

Live television feeds showed a huge cloud of black smoke rising from Khartoum airport and the sound of shooting and artillery booms.

The army and the paramilitary RSF, which are waging a deadly power struggle across the country, had both issued statements saying they would uphold a three-day ceasefire from Friday for Islam's Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Sudan's sudden collapse into warfare a week ago has dashed plans to restore civilian rule, brought an already impoverished country to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe and threatened a wider conflict that could draw in outside powers.

There has been no sign yet that either side can secure a quick victory or is ready to back down and talk. The army has air power but the RSF is widely embedded in urban areas including around key facilities in central Khartoum.

However, Burhan said on Saturday that "we all need to sit as Sudanese and find the right way out to return hope and life," his most conciliatory comments since fighting began.

Burhan and Hemedti had held the top two positions on a ruling council overseeing a political transition after a 2021 coup that was meant to include a move to civilian rule and the RSF's merger into the army.

The World Health Organization reported on Friday that 413 people had been killed and 3,551 injured since fighting broke out. The death toll includes at least five aid workers in a country reliant on food aid.

This article was compiles with information from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.