American nationals are searched by the U.S. soldiers before boarding a ship in Port Sudan on Sunday. Smowal Abdalla/Associated Press

An evacuation convoy organized by the U.S. government and carrying American citizens and other foreign nationals reached the Sudanese port city of Port Sudan on Saturday, the State Department said.

The caravan included more than a dozen local buses and evacuated 300 U.S. citizens from the capital, Khartoum, under the protection of armed drones, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to discuss the situation on the record.

The State Department said Saturday that it was assisting U.S. citizens and others who are eligible with “onward travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”

“This builds on the work the U.S. government has done this week to facilitate the departure of our diplomats by military assisted departure, and hundreds of other American citizens by land convoys, flights on partner air craft, and sea,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also approved a request for assistance from the State Department “to support the safe departure of U.S. citizens and their immediate family members via overland,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said on Saturday.

The Pentagon “deployed U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to support air and land evacuation routes,” she said in a statement. “Our focus has been and remains to help as many U.S. citizens depart as safely as possible.”


Conflict in Sudan, Africa’s ninth-most populous nation, erupted earlier this month between the Sudanese army, which is loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), whose leader is Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

The operation to get U.S. civilians to safety came just one week after U.S. forces airlifted dozens of diplomats and other personnel out of Khartoum on three MH-47 Chinook helicopters.

The passengers who evacuated Saturday were told to gather at a golf course in the capital, a U.S. official said, for a 24-hour journey through rough terrain and armed checkpoints.

“It’s not like jumping on the Autobahn,” the U.S. official said, referring to the German highway system known for its lack of speed limits. “It’s slow going, with the potential for bad guys all over the place.”


American nationals are searched by the U.S. soldiers before boarding a ship in Port Sudan on Sunday. Smowal Abdalla/Associated Press

The convoy was tracked overhead throughout the trip by armed drones, with the knowledge that any decision to use the weapons risked civilian casualties. “That’s why operational security was so important on this,” said the official, explaining why the departure, and tense tracking while the vehicles were en route, remained unannounced until arrival.

Critics had denounced the administration for refusing to announce plans to evacuate civilians after the high-profile effort to extract U.S. Embassy staff on April 22. For days, Washington said there were no preparations underway, even as other nations such as Britain, France, Germany, China, India and Turkey organized airlifts and convoys to remove their citizens from the country.


According to U.S. officials, there were about 16,000 Americans in Sudan when the conflict broke out earlier this month, including 5,000 who registered their presence with the U.S. Embassy. Officials said that the number of U.S. citizens who had indicated they wanted to leave was relatively small, numbering in the hundreds.

“The U.S. government has taken extensive efforts to contact U.S. citizens in Sudan and enable the departure of those who wished to leave,” Miller said Saturday. “We messaged every U.S. citizen in Sudan who communicated with us during the crisis and provided specific instructions about joining this convoy to those who were interested in departing via the land route.”

While Britain and other countries had evacuated some of their civilians by air, using the Wadi Seidna Air Base about 15 miles north of the capital, the base was also being used by the Sudanese military to launch attacks, a situation that the RSF had communicated it would not tolerate much longer.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Friday that two of its C-130 aircraft sent to Sudan to evacuate Turkish citizens were “harassed by small arms fire” but departed the airfield safely. And on Saturday, the State Department recommended that U.S. citizens avoid the airfield, citing “the threat of increased violence.”

The U.S. official said that Washington was not ruling out the possibility of an air evacuation but was mindful of risks to American troops as well as to civilians and that the ground route was considered more viable.

The situation in Afghanistan, where about 124,000 U.S. and other civilians were evacuated by U.S. and allied governments in August 2021, was “not standard practice,” because of the existing presence of U.S. forces on the ground and the 20-year American presence there, the official said. There was no evacuation for nonofficial Americans from Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, or other hot spots when government personnel were taken out, the official said.


Other nations said they were wrapping up evacuation efforts. Britain said its final evacuation flight would depart from the Wadi Seidna airfield late Saturday, with more than 1,800 people airlifted out of Sudan, according to a statement from the Foreign Office.

Germany’s Defense Ministry said late Friday that it had ended its evacuation operation and successfully extracted about “780 people from over 40 nations,” while Australia also said Saturday that more than 130 citizens were evacuated. It urged remaining nationals to “consider leaving Sudan as soon as possible.”

But even as foreign nationals fled the fighting, millions of Sudanese residents remained trapped with no way out. The conflict has killed more than 450 civilians, according to the United Nations, with the health system near collapse. Buses to the Egyptian border cost around $350 per seat, families told The Washington Post, up from $50 earlier this month, and prices are still rising, even though few can afford them.


DeYoung reported from Washington, Suliman from London, Houreld from Nairobi and Chason from Dakar. The Washington Post’s Hafiz Haroun in Nairobi, Siobhán O’Grady in Wadi Karkar, Egypt, Ellen Francis in London and John Hudson and Dan Lamothe in Washington contributed to this report.

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