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[News] Evacuation of diplomats and citizens in Sudan, a Land Air Sea operation is being prepared (v4)

(B2) European countries are working closely with their allies to carry out an evacuation operation for European and foreign citizens stranded in Khartoum. Airplanes and special forces preposition themselves. A hub has been set up in Djibouti. Another in Jordan. Evacuation operation takes shape

A French A400M aircraft taking off in Djibouti during an operational readiness exercise in May 2022
(B2 archives - Photo: DICOD)

Not an easy operation to bring

Everyone is preparing to evacuate both the diplomats stationed in Sudan and the citizens. An operation not obvious. There are about 1500 Europeans in Sudan, including 300 Greeks (the largest community), 250 French, 140 Italians, 140 Dutch, a hundred Swedes, around 60 Spaniards. Seven EU countries have an embassy in Khartoum (France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden) as well as the European Union. But the largest community remains American, with nearly 19.000 people in the country. There are also several hundred Britons, 60 Japanese, Koreans, etc.

Difficult situation on site

According to a European diplomatic report, basic necessities, notably food and water, are running out, as is the fuel for the generators that supply electricity to homes, telephone relay stations. and other critical infrastructure ". The situation is very fluid and rapidly evolving ". Ceasefire agreements have been concluded [but they] have not been respected ". Khartoum International Airport is currently " closed and would be in poor condition ».

Air, land or sea

As for the land route, it remains long, at least from the Sudanese capital: more than 1000 km from the conurbation of Khartoum-Omdurman, to reach Wadi Haifa and Egypt or Port Sudan. It is also risky, especially in urban areas, with the risk of being caught in gunfire. It is subject to the vagaries of the road (lack of fuel, water or food supplies according to a US diplomat). In fact, it requires a Sudanese escort, because of the many roadblocks. It is more practical for cities in the North (Dongola, etc.) or in the West, close to Chad (El Geneina, Al Fasher) or the Central African Republic (Nyala). Only the sea route remains open from Port Sudan, on the Red Sea.

The condition: to have a landing guarantee planes

The air evacuation operation will be triggered when the " security conditions will be met “, indicated a European diplomat to B2. If yesterday (Friday) morning. The airport is partly unusable. The paramilitaries of the Sudanese rapid intervention force (Rapid Support Forces or RSF) of General Mohamed Dagalo * opened the door on Friday during the day. " In accordance with the humanitarian truce, [we] are ready to partially open all airports in Sudan to air traffic to allow brotherly and friendly countries wishing to evacuate their nationals to leave the country safely. “, they promised via Twitter. In the meantime, each country has ordered its nationals to gather in secure places (the embassy for example) to facilitate evacuations.

Djibouti assembly point

In the meantime, several transport planes and special forces are gathering in neighboring countries. At least two A400M transport planes and a French C130 plane have thus been prepositioned on Djibouti air base 188, ready to make an airlift if necessary with Sudan (the distance as the crow flies is 1200 km or 2 -3 hours of flight on average). On board, special forces, probably from the marine commandos of Lorient (Forfusco). According to our information, the French could take care, in addition to their own citizens, of the EU delegation, Belgians and other nationalities.

The Spanish general staff also dispatched several planes to Djibouti: an A330 MRTT and three A400M planes according to the spanish sources. Two more are on the way. With special forces on board, from the Parachute Brigade Almogávares (BRIPAR) according to The Confidential. Athens triggered the Cosmos plan, according to the Greek TV, providing for the use of planes, ships and the special forces of the special parachute section (ETA). A plane from the Swedish forces also flew to Djibouti. The Italians are also on site with at least one plane and elements of the 46th air brigade of the air force, as confirmed by Minister A. Tajani. Ireland sent members of its civilian emergency response team (ECAT) which included twelve soldiers, responsible for welcoming its nationals.

Jordan backstitch

The Germans are also preparing troops. At least four A400M aircraft flew to the Muwaffaq Salti base in AlAzrak, Jordan, well known to the Germans for use in support of the anti-Daesh coalition, as Thomas Wiegold of Augergeradeaus. Paratroopers on board. The Dutch also sent an A-330 strategic airlifter to the area, with a medical team and marines, as well as a C-130 type tactical aircraft, which arrived in Aqaba (Jordan) on Wednesday (April 19). All followed by a second C-130 aircraft. A Norwegian C-130 aircraft is also prepositioned in Amman.

A Dutch C-130 aircraft and special forces on the rear base in Jordan (Photo: MOD Netherlands)

Our Americans in force

The United States, the most concerned of the Allies, mobilized significant resources. Different “ additional abilities "have been deployed" nearby in the area » (NB: Djibouti mainly) to "for emergency purposes » and to parry « to different eventualities confirmed the US State Department spokesperson on Friday (April 21). Several C-130 or C-17 planes have thus taken off from US air bases in Europe (Glasgow, Ramstein, Rota, Sigonella, etc.) or the Middle East (Al Udeid in Qatar) to reach Djibouti. Operation coordinated byUS Africa Com (US Africa Command).

Japanese, South Koreans and British

Two C-130 and Kawasaki C2 (the Japanese A400M) tactical transport planes and a KC767 tanker and transport plane from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force are joining Djibouti, according to the television Japanese. The South Korean Ministry of Defense announced the departure of a C-130J plane with about XNUMX soldiers on board, including medical and security personnel, according to the agencies. British and Jordanians are also mobilized.

Emergency coordination

A coordination unit has been set up, bringing together all the States concerned (French, Americans, Spanish, Dutch, etc.). All these countries know Djibouti well. France, like the USA and Japan, have a permanent military base there. The small state on the East African coast has also served as an air and sea hub for the EU's anti-piracy operation (EUNAVFOR Atalanta). And until recently, both Germans and Japanese had an advanced base there on or near the airport. The Spaniards are still there with a maritime patrol plane (Casa CN-235) and the frigate Reina Sofia, Atalanta's flagship, which has its (temporary) home port in Djibouti. The Italians also with the ITS Carlo Bergamini frigate.

First evacuations - terrestrial

  • First evacuations have taken place, led by the Saudi forces announced the television of state. A road convoy, escorted by the Sudanese, was able to reach Port Sudan. From there five ships took over, taking to Jeddah, the Saudi Red Sea port just opposite) up to 400 Saudi citizens and various nationalities (including Bulgarians and Canadians).
  • The evacuation led by the Qataris along the same route apparently encountered incidents along the way, with the convoy having several objects stolen.
  • A first evacuation operation was carried out by air on Sunday night (April 23), with three CH47 Chinook helicopters according to Washington (six aircraft according to the RSF paramilitaries). " Today, on my orders, the US military conducted an operation to extract US government personnel from Khartoum in response to the situation in Sudan " thus declared Joe Biden. It made it possible to evacuate US diplomats and their families from Khartoum, but also several Europeans (Swedes, according to our information, are among them). A plane of the Swedish forces took off from Djibouti early Sunday morning towards Stockholm.
  • The Quai d'Orsay also confirmed the coordination of resources and the implementation of joint evacuation operations (cf. communicated). Read also

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: [News] The French operation to evacuate citizens from Sudan has started. First assessment

No use of rapid deploy capability. Clarification: there is "no question of the use of the rapid deployment capability from the European Union, a European official confirmed to B2. This device, developed within the framework of the European strategic compass, from the battlegroups of the EU, is still in preparation. But it will certainly be a kind of life-size test. One of the first scenarios developed for the use of this capacity is indeed the evacuation of European citizens in danger in a third country. 

* A disreputable man (aka Hemedti) per se. Along with the Janjawid militias, they are suspected of having been largely responsible for the massacres in Darfur as well as the repression of demonstrations in 2019 (read on tv5 world).

Updated - first elements of maritime evacuation by Saudi Arabia - New Spanish and Swedish planes + US / FR / SWE evacuation + French convoy attack and situation on the spot.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).