Egyptian army says 177 soldiers evacuated from Sudan

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Egypt has said that most of its military personnel, who were in Sudan for joint exercises, have returned home.

Three flights carrying 177 Egyptian troops from Sudan arrived in Cairo and a separate group of 27 air force personnel is in the care of the Egyptian embassy in Sudan, the Egyptian army said on Thursday.

Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and its sister cities Omdurman and Bahri have been rocked by fierce battles between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since Saturday, leaving many stranded and causing food supplies to run short.

The RSF said it had detained 27 Egyptian military personnel after storming Merowe air base in northern Sudan on Saturday.

The Sudanese army said in a statement that the 177 troops were evacuated from the town of Dongola.

The Egyptian military has said the soldiers were in Sudan for training according to a joint protocol between the two countries. Egypt and Sudan have carried out multiple joint exercises since the beginning of diplomatic tensions with Ethiopia.

The handover of the troops took place with mediation from the United Arab Emirates, the Egyptian foreign ministry and the Emirati state news agency WAM said.

The RSF said it had handed over the men to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the capital Khartoum, and the Egyptian army said 27 were now at the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum.

They would be evacuated “as soon as the situation is stable and the necessary security circumstances are available”, the Egyptian army said.

The Egyptian army said the 177 had been evacuated in three military flights on Wednesday night.

The evacuation came on Wednesday as the military and RSF launched the latest attempt at a 24-hour ceasefire after days of battles between them in the streets of the capital and other parts of the country.

The day before, a similar truce failed to stop the deadly clashes that threaten to engulf the country in civil war.

At least 330 people have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded so far, the UN health agency said, but the toll is likely higher because many bodies lie uncollected in the streets.

Through the night and into Thursday morning, gunfire could be heard almost constantly across Khartoum. Artillery shelling and air raids seemed to have eased from previous days, but residents still reported a few explosions.

International diplomats have hoped a 24-hour truce can be expanded to a longer ceasefire and a return to negotiations over Sudan’s future. But even a solid one-day pause has been a challenge, as army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and RSF commander General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo — former allies against Sudan’s pro-democracy movement — have continued their struggle for power.