The United States carries out the first evacuation of its citizens since the war in Sudan

More than a dozen other nations have already carried out evacuations for their citizens amid the deadly fighting.

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of Americans fleeing two weeks of deadly fighting in Sudan reached the East African nation’s port on Saturday in the first US-led evacuation, completing a perilous overland journey under armed drone escort.

American unmanned planes, which have been keeping tabs on ground evacuation routes for days, provided armed surveillance to a bus convoy carrying 200 to 300 Americans more than 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, to Port Sudan, a place of relative safety, US officials said.

The United States, which had none of its officials on the ground for the evacuation, was criticized by the families of Americans trapped in Sudan for initially ruling out any US-led evacuation for Americans who wanted to get out, calling it too dangerous.

US special operations troops flew briefly to the capital, Khartoum, on April 22 to airlift US embassy personnel and other US government personnel. Several thousand US citizens were left behind, many of them dual nationals.

More than a dozen other nations had already carried out evacuations for their own citizens, using a mix of military aircraft, naval vessels and ground personnel.

A large group of international brokers – including African and Arab nations, the United Nations and the United States – have only succeeded in securing a series of flimsy temporary ceasefires that have failed to stop the fighting but have created sufficient respite to tens of thousands of Sudanese to flee to safer areas and for foreign nations to evacuate thousands of their citizens by land, air and sea.

Since the conflict between two rival generals broke out on April 15, the United States has warned its citizens that they must find their own way out of the country, although US officials have tried to connect the Americans with US evacuation efforts. other nations. But that changed when US officials used a relative lull in the fighting and, from afar, organized their own convoy for the Americans, officials said.

Without the evacuation flights near the capital that other countries have been offering their citizens, many US citizens have been left making the perilous overland journey from Khartoum to the country’s main Red Sea port, Port Sudan. A Sudanese-American family who made the trip earlier described passing through numerous checkpoints manned by armed men and passing bodies lying on the road and vehicles of other fleeing families who had been killed along the way.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the convoy was carrying US citizens, local people employed by the US and citizens of allied countries. “We reiterate our warning to Americans not to travel to Sudan,” he said.

From Port Sudan, away from the fighting, the Americans in the convoy can look for berths on ships crossing the Red Sea to the Saudi port city of Jeddah. US officials are also working with Saudi Arabia to see if one of the kingdom’s warships can carry more Americans to Jeddah.

US consular officials will be waiting for the Americans once they reach the Jeddah pier, but there are no US personnel in Port Sudan, officials said.

Two Americans were confirmed to have been killed in the fighting that erupted on April 15. One was a US civilian who officials said was caught in the crossfire. The other was a doctor from Iowa City, Iowa, who was stabbed to death in front of his Khartoum home and family in the lawless violence that accompanied the fighting.

In all, fighting in the East African country has killed more than 500 people.

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