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American trapped in Sudan is desperate to escape amid deadly military clashes

<i>Courtesy Myadah Kaila</i><br/>Myadah Kaila came to the US as a Sudanese refugee in the early 2000s.
Courtesy Myadah Kaila
Myadah Kaila came to the US as a Sudanese refugee in the early 2000s.

By Nicole Grether and Samantha Beech, CNN

An American woman who traveled from New York to Sudan to celebrate Ramadan with family there is now desperate to escape as fighting between rival military forces continues to worsen.

Myadah Kaila, a 28-year-old Sudanese-born public health professional, left her home in Syracuse, New York in mid-March. Within weeks of her arrival in Sudan, fighting broke out in the country, leading to a rushed evacuation of diplomats and rapidly deteriorating conditions.

Hundreds have been killed so far and thousands more injured as forces loyal to two rival generals vie for control of the country.

“Currently I am safe, thankfully I am in a different part of Sudan called Kosti City,” Kaila told CNN by phone Sunday, on a line that dropped several times. “As you can see, the telecoms services are all off, the internet is very unstable, every type of service, phone service, is unstable. But I am in a safe place, I’m not in the areas where there is a lot of conflict, thankfully.”

Kaila and her family fled to the US as refugees from the Second Sudanese Civil War in the early 2000s. She is staying with relatives in Kosti, about 4.5 hours’ drive south of the capital city of Khartoum — which has turned partially into a war zone.

Ironically, before the fighting started Kaila said she wanted to extend her stay in the African country. She and her uncle are now waiting for the chance to begin the dangerous journey to Port Sudan to secure passage out of the conflict zone and into Saudi Arabia to then travel home to the US.

“The State Department has evacuated mainly diplomats and … American citizens that have been working in Sudan,” Kaila said. “But in terms of the rest of the American citizens that are living here, we haven’t received any direct evacuation plans. It’s mainly been through other embassies.”

Thousands of foreign nationals have been evacuated from Sudan and thousands of local families have fled Khartoum amid clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Clashes erupted in mid-April, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more.

A 72-hour ceasefire last week allowed foreign nations to evacuate citizens but amid deteriorating conditions, Sudanese people have been left to fend for themselves or flee the country.

The first US-led effort to evacuate private American citizens from the conflict was completed on Saturday, with a convoy organized by the US government reaching Port Sudan after a long journey from Khartoum.

The effort came amid mounting anger from Americans in Sudan who said they felt abandoned by the US government and were left to navigate the complicated and dangerous situation on their own.

Kaila said she was able to register with the US government online and she has been receiving updates over email regarding the situation in Sudan and the US government’s plans for evacuations. Her concern now is being able to travel safely to either the capital city of Khartoum or to Port Sudan for any chance of being evacuated.

“In terms of communication, they’re sending out emails, let’s say at 4 a.m. and telling you to get there by 7 a.m.,” she said, noting many people left the war-torn capital to seek refuge in other cities, sometimes several hours away. “So you can imagine how difficult it is to make it even in time to reach the evacuation plane,” Kaila said.

Kaila is hoping to begin the dangerous journey to Port Sudan to make it on an evacuation ship in the coming days. She says it could take several days to make it to the port and worries about the dangers getting there.

“The RSF has been taking over some of the roads, especially with the roads that are mainly used for traveling,” she said. Kaila said she’s heard from others who made the voyage and had their bags were searched, with items like gold and money stolen.

“And if you don’t have cash on you, then I’ve heard that they actually tell to open up your bank app,” she said.

She said the idea of making the trip is “really nerve wracking” because if you are stopped and don’t cooperate, soldiers can “execute you on the spot. There are cases where that has happened already.”

Despite the risks, Kaila told CNN she has no choice but to attempt to make it out of Sudan safely.

“It doesn’t seem like the fighting is going to end any time soon,” she said, adding she can’t “wait it out to see when it’s gonna end.”

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