Two Canadian Armed Forces flights have left Sudan, carrying 118 evacuees

Violence erupted in Sudan last week between its army and a paramilitary force

Two Canadian evacuation flights left Sudan today carrying 118 evacuees to Djibouti but federal officials could not yet say how many of those are Canadian citizens.

Senior officials from Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces say the flights were not full because of increasing violence and extortion of people who are trying to flee to the main airport in Khartoum.

Some of the people on board Canada’s flights today were from allied countries but it’s not public how many or from which countries.

Roughly 200 Canadians had already evacuated Sudan on flights from other countries including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Defence Minister Anita Anand says more flights are planned in the coming days but warns things are moving and changing quickly.

She says the 200 military personnel tasked with the evacuation efforts are currently based out of nearby Djibouti and are operating in a “very volatile situation.”

“But make no mistake, this is very good news,” she told reporters in Enfield, N.S., where she was announcing upgrades to Canada’s search-and-rescue fleet.

“It is very important to recognize the work of the Canadian Armed Forces personnel to make this happen.”

Violence erupted in Sudan last week between its army and a paramilitary force. A ceasefire has brought some calm thought the fighting continues.

Ottawa has faced some criticism for a slow response, with other allies doing the heavy lifting to help Canadians and their dependants leave the country until now.

Officials said Wednesday it is unlikely that Canadian evacuation flights will continue past this week, with the latest fragile ceasefire soon to expire.

In response to a question about how firm that deadline could be, Anand said the military is working “as quickly as possible” to ensure the evacuation of as many Canadians as it can.

“The situation is extremely dangerous in Sudan and key civilian infrastructure is necessary for any evacuation of non-combatants in this situation,” she said.

“The power (and) the communication are intermittent. Food and water shortages are widespread. And so it requires our Canadian Armed Forces planners to consider all options for evacuation other than by aircraft, although these may pose additional risks.”

Anand said the majority of Canadian citizens are in the capital of Khartoum and movements by ground or by sea are risky. But HMCS Montreal, a Royal Canadian Navy frigate, and the supply ship MV Asterix are in the vicinity ready to assist.

“All options are on the table. Planning is occurring as we speak to ensure the maximum number of Canadians can be evacuated as soon as possible.”

At least 512 people, including civilians and combatants, have been killed in Sudan since April 15, with another 4,200 wounded, according to the Sudanese Health Ministry. The Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties, has recorded at least 295 civilians killed and 1,790 wounded.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press and Keith Doucette in Enfield, N.S.