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The Pentagon may evacuate U.S. citizens from Sudan

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The leader of the Sudanese military today claimed he is committed to transition to civilian rule.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

But in his first speech since fighting began, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan made no mention of accepting a three-day-long cease-fire offered by the paramilitary forces. Gunfire was heard on the streets of Khartoum and other cities on Friday morning, and the U.S. is moving a large number of additional troops to its base in nearby Djibouti to prepare for a possible evacuation of U.S. citizens in Sudan.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu has been monitoring the situation. He joins now from Lagos.

Emmanuel, before we hear more detail about the humanitarian situation, what more do we know about the U.S.'s plans to evacuate citizens?

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Not very much. You know, the airspace is closed. The airport in Khartoum has been actually at the center of the fighting. If there was a cease-fire, it would offer a window. But there isn't one. The fighting hasn't stopped, even this morning. There's an estimated 16,000 Americans registered in Sudan. It would be a major operation to evacuate them at any time, especially now. And the State Department spokesperson said yesterday that due to the fluid situation, it's not safe to undertake an evacuation. So essentially, these are preparations, but the conditions for an evacuation just isn't there.

Egypt managed to evacuate about 177 troops from northern Sudan this week, but 27 remain in Khartoum. And obviously, now the situation is very precarious.

MARTÍNEZ: And I know that thousands of Sudanese have become displaced by the fighting. How bad is the humanitarian situation there?

AKINWOTU: The speed of the collapse in Khartoum and other areas surrounding it has been tragic and surreal. In places, there are dead bodies on the streets, we're hearing. At least 330 people have died, thousands of people injured. The majority of hospitals have shut down, and the few that are open are absolutely overwhelmed.

And people are sheltering at home, but people are also dying at home. I spoke to someone yesterday whose mother died in her living room in Khartoum, killed by shrapnel. And we've been hearing stories like this all week. The fighting has been most intense in the center of the city and areas around it, so so many people in their homes are exposed to this.

And then tragically, we've also seen reports of RSF fighters - Rapid Support Force fighters, the paramilitary group - taking over hospitals and bedding in people's homes, kicking residents out and committing abuses and sexual abuses. Everyone who can are trying to flee Khartoum right now.

MARTÍNEZ: Meanwhile, this instability and all this fighting is making neighbors of Sudan very, very nervous. Remind us what's at stake for those countries that are right nearby.

AKINWOTU: You know, Sudan borders seven countries, many of them with ethnic groups that cross these borders. And the borders are porous, some of them - and, you know, countries like Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan. And there's a potential that this conflict brings in other militia and ethnic militia. For now, that hasn't been the case. And the other militia groups in Sudan and international actors with a stake in Sudan have largely advocated peace talks. But as we can see, those calls have completely been unheard.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu in Lagos. Thank you very much.

AKINWOTU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.