Canada airlifts over 100 people from Sudan in first evacuation operation

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Minister of National Defence Anita visits Ramstein U.S. Air Base

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada conducted its first evacuation operation in Sudan on Thursday, airlifting over 100 hundred people, including Canadians and other nationals, on two flights from the war-torn North African country, senior government officials said.

About 180 Canadians were evacuated from the region earlier with the help of other countries, and the federal government had been working to set up its own operation to extract civilians.

"I can confirm that a first Canadian evacuation flight from Sudan has taken place using an RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) CC-130 Hercules aircraft," Defence Minister Anita Anand said at a news conference in Enfield, Nova Scotia.

The first flight carried about 45 people from countries including Canada, the U.S. and Japan, while a second flight a few hours later had 73 people onboard, according to the Canadian foreign ministry.

The Canadian armed forces were planning for future extractions in the days to come. The evacuees were taken to a third location, before they could return to their home countries.

Governments globally have rushed to extract foreign diplomats and citizens from Sudan after a conflict between the Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) killed hundreds of people, knocked out hospitals and turned residential areas into war zones.

There are over 1,700 Canadians in Sudan, out of which about 800 have requested assistance from the Canadian government.

Anand said a majority of Canadian citizens are in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and efforts to evacuate them by ground or by sea "significantly increase the time during which they would be exposed to risk."

"Planning is occurring as we speak to ensure the maximum number of Canadians can be evacuated as soon as possible," Anand told reporters in Enfield.

The Canadian defense ministry said on Wednesday it was deploying about 200 troops and positioning two C-130 Hercules aircraft to coordinate evacuations from Sudan.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)