Paris: France evacuated around 100 people from Sudan on its first flight out of the war-hit country after a “complicated” rescue operation, officials said on Sunday.
The first rescue flight to Djibouti carried citizens from Britain, France, Germany, and Switzerland as well as African nations such as Ethiopia and Morocco, AFP quoted an official from the foreign ministry as saying.
“They’re tired, tense, but very relieved to have arrived safe and sound,” he said.
The evacuees had to cross the frontline of fighting around the capital Khartoum to board the planes, with the French embassy helping negotiate a ceasefire with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that is battling the army.
“I must stress the complicated nature of this operation,” the official said.
A second flight of another 100 people is expected to leave on Sunday evening, with another 100 people on board.
Asked about unconfirmed reports that a French national had been injured on Sunday when the rescue convoy was fired upon, a defence ministry official declined to comment.
“With the operation ongoing, we do not want to comment on this type of rumour,” an official from the defence ministry said, speaking during the same briefing with reporters.
They gave details of the long planning process and negotiations leading up to Sunday’s operations.
Locating French and other foreign nationals has been difficult because of the lack of phone network coverage and electricity.
An evacuation mission by road was considered, but then discarded due to security concerns as well as the difficulties in supplying it with food and fuel.
Once the airborne option was chosen, President Emmanuel Macron called his Ethiopian counterpart to request permission for the flights to use Ethiopian air space on their way to Djibouti.
“We had difficulties with some countries which had closed their air space,” the foreign ministry official said.
A doctor was on board the French plane to assist evacuees, many of whom were “understandably psychologically affected” by their ordeal in Khartoum where food and fuel are in short supply, the official added.
France is expected to send other rescue flights on Monday morning.
(With inputs from AFP)
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