The federal government has initially canceled an evacuation of German citizens with Bundeswehr machines from Sudan because of the security situation in the country. According to information from the German Press Agency, a plan for the use of the Luftwaffe was stopped due to the uncertain situation in the embattled capital Khartoum.

The planes for this took off from Wunstorf (Lower Saxony) early on Wednesday morning. The three A400M military transport aircraft flew over Italy and refueled in Greece. Military aircraft from other nations are also ready for action in the region in the event that the situation on the ground would have permitted it, it said. The admission of the German citizens should have taken place at the contested Khartoum airport, the return should then have taken place via the Al-Asrak air force base in Jordan, which is used by the German armed forces. On Wednesday afternoon, however, the Bundeswehr machines were on their way back to Germany.

“Lower three-digit number” of German nationals registered

According to a spokeswoman on Monday, a “low three-digit number” of German nationals in Sudan were registered in the so-called crisis prevention list of the Federal Foreign Office. “But experience has shown that in such conflict situations and crisis situations, the number fluctuates greatly and can go up at any time,” said the spokeswoman.

Fighting broke out in Sudan on Saturday between the country’s two most powerful generals and their units. The two men have led the country in northeast Africa with around 46 million inhabitants since a joint military coup in 2021. De facto President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is also the commander-in-chief of the army, has been fighting with the military against his deputy Mohammed since Saturday Hamdan Daglo, the leader of the powerful paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Actually, the RSF should have been subordinate to the army and power in the country should have been returned to a civilian government.

The airport in the capital Khartoum has been at the center of hostilities in recent days. Diplomats are scrambling for a resilient ceasefire for the evacuation.

Robust military use possible

There are basically several options for such a rescue mission. Theoretically, civil aircraft could be used. The next stage is a diplomatically agreed evacuation, with military planes landing on the basis of a ceasefire – but peacefully. But there is also the robust military deployment, in which Germany and allies have to enforce the rescue of their citizens against resistance – which would be extremely dangerous.

As part of the national crisis management, the Bundeswehr has the capability to evacuate citizens under military protection. The soldiers specializing in such operations are part of the Rapid Forces Division (DSK), which includes the paratroopers and the Special Forces Command (KSK). The Bundeswehr also provides soldiers for crisis support teams (KUT) that advise embassies in crisis situations.

It was only in March that the Bundeswehr Operations Command practiced – as every two years – how to save stuck Germans. “Extricate Owl 2023” was the name of this exercise, in which the evacuation of nationals and other people in need of protection from a fictitious crisis country was played out. “This will optimize the procedures and processes for better security of action,” it said.

UN: No routes in or out of Sudan

Air traffic in Sudan has come to a standstill since the fighting broke out. The airports in Khartoum and the city of Merowe, around 330 kilometers away, were attacked by the RSF on Saturday morning. Several passenger planes were destroyed. The army claimed to have recaptured the airport in Khartoum, but the parties to the conflict are still fighting with heavy artillery near the airport and the adjacent army headquarters. Anti-aircraft missiles are also reportedly deployed in Khartoum.

According to an industry medium, the Sudanese civil aviation authority announced at the weekend that the airspace was closed and that there were no longer any air traffic control services in the Khartoum area. The UN announced that there are currently no routes into or out of Sudan. According to non-governmental organizations, humanitarian supplies with urgent medical supplies are currently impossible. International mediators, including three East African presidents, are also currently unable to enter the country.