The US military completed an evacuation of the American embassy in war-torn Sudan, President Joe Biden said late Saturday evening.
Biden confirmed the evacuation of US government personnel from Khartoum under his orders and said the administration would continue to assist Americans in Sudan. Biden was praised by embassy staff, saying on a statement they “embodied America’s friendship and connection with the people of Sudan.”
“I am grateful for the unmatched skills of our service members who successfully brought them to safety,” he said. “And I thank Djibouti, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, which were critical to the success of our operation.”
MORE: Dead bodies line the streets amid fighting in Sudan; American confirmed among fatalities
Biden said the embassy had been temporarily closed but “our commitment to the Sudanese people and the future they want for themselves is unending.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the suspensions of operations at the embassy in Khartoum were due to the growing security risk and ensuring the safety of personnel.
“The widespread fighting has caused significant numbers of civilian deaths and injuries and damage to essential infrastructure and posed an unacceptable risk to our Embassy personnel,” Blinken said in a statement.
The State Department updated its travel advisory for Sudan to reflect that the US embassy in Khartoum had suspended operations. The department’s advisory for Sudan remains at its highest warning level — where it has been since August of 2021.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted the successful evacuation operation was conducted at Biden’s direction. He also highlighted the countries that assisted the operation.
“We also thank our allies and partners, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia, which were critical to the success of this operation,” Austin said in a statement.
The Rapid Support Forces, the Sudanese paramilitary group battling Sudan’s army, issued a statement claiming to have aided in the US evacuation.
“Today, Sunday, the Rapid Support Forces, in coordination with the US forces mission consisting of 6 planes for the purpose of evacuating diplomats and their families, supervised the necessary arrangements that preceded the evacuation process,” the statement read.
State Department Under Secretary for Management John Bass refuted those claims.
“That was not the case. They cooperated to the extent that they did not fire on our service members in the course of the operation,” he said. “I would submit that was as much in their self-interest as anything else.”
The Sudanese army said Saturday that evacuations of foreign diplomatic staff from the US, UK, France and China will begin in the coming hours on military airplanes, as fighting persists in the capital, including at its main airport. Their evacuation will be by air in military transport aircraft belonging to their armed forces, the army said.
The Saudi Arabian mission was earlier evacuated by land to Port Sudan then by air to Saudi Arabia, Sudan’s army said. A similar evacuation plan will be secured for the Jordanian mission at a later time.
The rescue mission is the product of days of preparation across the administration and comes as the violent power struggle for control of Sudan, which has claimed almost 100 lives, enters its second week.
On Friday, Austin told reporters US forces had deployed to Africa to assist with a possible evacuation of US embassy personnel.
“We’ve deployed some forces into the theater to ensure that we provide as many options as possible if we are called on to do something,” he said during a news conference in Ramstein, Germany.
Austin and other senior administration officials said at that time that no final call had been made to evacuate the embassy.
Speaking late Saturday, Bass said the quickly deteriorating situation in recent days left the administration with no other option other than to turn to the military to rescue embassy personnel. But he said private US citizens in the country should not expect similar assistance
“We certainly continue to be in close touch with many American citizens in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan to give them our best assessment of the security environment and to encourage them to take appropriate precautions to the best of their abilities in and around that environment, ” he said.
MORE: Blinken confirms attack on US diplomatic convoy in Sudan as fighting continues
National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby emphasized the challenges in conducting even a limited military operation in Sudan during a press briefing on Friday, remarking that it was “not as simple as jumping in a taxicab” and that at the time, all US government personnel had not yet been consolidated in a single location.
Despite a 72-hour ceasefire agreed upon to coincide with the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, deadly clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary group continued through the weekend.
In a statement on Friday, Blinken urged both sides to uphold the truce.
“I reiterate my call on both sides to pause the fighting to allow civilians to take care of themselves and their families, to permit full and unimpeded humanitarian access, and to enable all civilians, including diplomatic personnel, to reach safety,” he said.
But both sides show little interest in laying down arms, and the violence seems poised to continue. An estimated 16,000 Americans are still in Sudan, but despite the ongoing danger, the Biden administration has repeatedly declared they should not expect a government-led mass evacuation.
“It is not our standard procedure to evacuate American citizens living abroad,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a White House press briefing on Friday.
The US Embassy in Sudan reiterated this saying, “Due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and the closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a US government-coordinated evacuation of private US citizens,” in a statement Saturday.
Principal Deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said that officials had been in touch with several hundred US citizens in Sudan concerning “security measures and other precautions they can take on their own.”
So far, the State Department has confirmed that one American citizen has been killed through the course of the conflict, but the limited information flow in Sudan could mean there are other victims not yet accounted for.
ABC News’ Morgan Windsor, Matt Seyler and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.
US embassy staff in Sudan evacuated amid fighting originally appeared on abcnews.go.com