U.S. Positioning Troops for Evacuation of American Embassy in Sudan

The Pentagon is moving troops to the African nation of Djibouti to prepare for an evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff from Sudan, where fierce fighting between two warring generals has led to the swift deterioration of conditions in the capital, Khartoum, according to two officials.

But senior U.S. officials acknowledged that it would not be easy to get embassy staff out, let alone the estimated 19,000 American citizens who are believed to be in the country.

It remained unclear on Thursday who, if anyone, was in control of Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country. The death toll from the fighting has risen to 330, with nearly 3,200 others wounded, according to the World Health Organization, whose officials said that the figures were an underestimate.

Much of the fighting has occurred in and around Khartoum, including in residential areas and other typically bustling parts of the city. Many residents have been hunkering down in their homes amid the unpredictable bombardments, gun battles and sniper fire that have hit civilian infrastructure such as hospitals.

The U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, called on Thursday for a three-day cease-fire to commemorate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to allow civilians to escape and seek medical treatment, food and other essentials. Mr. Guterres said humanitarian operations were “virtually impossible” as U.N. staff remained trapped in their homes in areas of active conflict.

But cease-fires have not held, including one declared on Wednesday. Mr. Guterres said he was hopeful this attempt would succeed as “all the parties to the conflict are Muslim.”

There have been reports of gunmen breaking into houses and attacking civilians, including a European ambassador. Khartoum’s international airport has been the target of heavy shelling, leaving destroyed planes littering the tarmac, and it is closed to all air traffic.

“The Department of Defense, through U.S. Africa Command, is monitoring the situation in Sudan and conducting prudent planning for various contingencies,” Lt. Col. Phil Ventura, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

“As part of this, we are deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of U.S. Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it,” he said.

Japan was the first country to announce a planned evacuation of its citizens. But announcing and actually carrying out the evacuations are two different things; the latter has proved to be elusive. Germany reportedly sent three planes, only to call off the rescue when they were en route.

The U.S. State Department is working with the Pentagon on how best to evacuate both the American Embassy and Americans in Sudan. The department previously said it had no plans for a government-coordinated evacuation, and had urged Americans to shelter in place.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 people have fled the conflict and crossed into Chad, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the refugees are women and children, the agency said on Thursday, and they are sheltering in the open. Others have escaped to South Sudan and the border area between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the United Nations said.

Farnaz Fassihi and Elian Peltier contributed reporting.

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