The United States reportedly deployed a Navy ship to Sudan to evacuate hundreds of American citizens stranded after two warring military groups began struggling for power earlier this month.
According to Reuters, two anonymous U.S. officials said on Sunday the Navy temporarily stationed the USNS Brunswick in Port Sudan, likely meant to evacuate U.S. citizens on the vessel.
The report comes after the Biden administration announced that buses carrying several hundred American citizens reached Port Sudan as drones overhead kept a watchful eye against any malignant actors. U.S. officials have reportedly been working with Saudi Arabia to send a ship to the port to rescue the Americans.
NBC reported a Pentagon spokesperson said, “The Department of Defense deployed U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to support air and land evacuation routes, which Americans are using.”
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said, according to the news outlet, that the U.S. was “moving naval assets within the region to provide any necessary support along the coast,” adding that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had “approved a request for assistance from the Department of State to support the safe departure.”
Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, said Saturday that “intensive negotiations” by the U.S. with the support of “regional and international partners” reportedly allowed citizens and non-citizens alike to evacuate the African country under heavy conflict since April 15.
Hundreds of paramilitary forces and citizens, including two U.S. nationals, were killed or injured in a series of airstrikes in Khartoum last week as the Sudanese army bombed positions held by the country’s RSF paramilitary group in a power struggle that some international observers fear could ignite a full-blown civil war.
World Health officials reported last week that the Sudanese health ministry had tallied at least 459 deaths and over 4,000 others injured. Five deaths included aid workers from two United Nations agencies: the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme. Both groups have since suspended their operations.
The U.S. evacuated its embassy staff but previously told thousands of other Americans that they were on their own if they wanted to flee the fighting. The White House could not explain why other nations sent planes to Sudan’s capital to evacuate their citizens this week.
The Biden administration defended the State Department’s decision to evacuate embassy personnel from Sudan while taking limited steps to aid thousands of Americans thought to still be in the country.
The U.S. Department of State has estimated that 16,000 Americans remain in Sudan. However, officials could not confirm the count because Americans living or traveling abroad are not required to check in with or otherwise make their plans known to the U.S. government.
State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel told NBC that a fraction of about 5,000 citizens requested aid to depart Sudan, either by land, sea or aircraft.”
Blinken said that many Americans in Sudan are dual citizens who do not want to leave the country despite its deteriorating conditions.
“The overwhelming majority of American citizens in Sudan are dual nationals who made their lives there, who have been living there for years, d'[ecades, for generations, and many want to continue to do that,” he said. “But for those who are seeking to leave, we will continue to engage directly with them to see what we can do to help them, and, like I said, with allies and partners as well to help facilitate their departure.”
Tim Meads contributed to this report.