The first group of Indians stranded in Sudan has left the battle-scarred nation in a Navy ship for Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Tuesday.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said 278 people onboard the Indian Navy’s INS Sumedha have left Port Sudan on the Red Sea, which is about 800 kilometres by road from the country’s capital Khartoum.
India had sent the ship and two heavy-lift Air Force aircraft as part of its preparations to evacuate close to 3,000 citizens.
The violence in the North African nation started on April 15 after weeks of rising tensions between military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo over a proposed plan to merge the Rapid Support Forces – a powerful paramilitary group – into the national army. Daglo commands the Rapid Support Forces.
Both the armed forces have been vying for supremacy since they worked together to overthrow Sudan’s long-term authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The military later agreed to share power with civilians but the rivalry between the two men has twice led to postponement of the signing of an agreement with civilian factions.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the warring factions have agreed to a three-day ceasefire as foreign countries raced to extract their diplomats and citizens.
Previous attempted ceasefires had failed to take effect, including a three-day pause to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
The fighting has killed at least 427 people and injured more than 3,700, AFP reported, citing agencies of the United Nations.
“Morgues are full,” said Attiya Abdallah, head of a doctors’ union. “Corpses litter the streets.”
Hours before Blinken’s announcement about a 72-hour ceasefire, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, had warned that the fighting could “engulf the whole region and beyond”.
He added: “We must all do everything within our power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss.”