US to send additional troops to Djibouti in case of Sudan evacuation

WASHINGTON – The United States is preparing to send a large number of additional troops to its base in Djibouti in case of an eventual evacuation from Sudan, a US official said as renewed heavy gunfire erupted on Thursday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate.

Forces commanded by two previously allied leaders of Sudan’s ruling council began a violent power struggle last weekend that has so far killed more than 330 people, tipping a nation reliant on food aid into what the United Nations calls a humanitarian catastrophe.

“We are deploying additional capabilities nearby in the region for contingency purposes related to securing and potentially facilitating the departure of US Embassy personnel from Sudan, if circumstances require it,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said US President Joe Biden ordered the pre-positioning of military forces to be ready, adding that Biden was closely following developments.

Kirby added that there are no indications Americans are being targeted, but that it was a dangerous situation.

The best thing that can happen is for the two sides to lay down arms, abide by the ceasefire and let humanitarian aid get to the people in Khartoum, Kirby said.

The State Department previously told US citizens in Sudan to remain sheltered in place indoors.

A State Department spokesperson said Washington does not provide numbers of US citizens living in or traveling to a particular country and for security reasons declined to say how many embassy staff are in Sudan.

The fiercest battles between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been around Khartoum, one of Africa’s largest urban areas, and in Darfur, still scarred by a brutal conflict that ended three years ago.

Sudan’s military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, heads a ruling council installed after the 2021 military coup and the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir. Paramilitary leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, who analysts say may command more than 100,000 fighters, was his deputy on the council.

The latest violence was triggered by disagreement over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government. Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition.

A group of four countries known as the Quad – the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – have pushed international efforts to find a political solution in Sudan, along with the United Nations, the African Union and African trade bloc IGAD.

Sudan has been a focus of US diplomatic efforts in Africa as Washington works to counter Russian influence in the country and the wider region. Russia is investing in gold mining in Sudan and has been trying to finalise an agreement establish a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.

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