British diplomats and their families have been swiftly evacuated from Sudan in a complex and rapid operation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed. The evacuees were taken to an airfield outside of Khartoum overnight and flown out of the country, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC.
The evacuation was prompted by fierce violence that erupted last week between two opposing forces in the country. The power struggle between the regular army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has seen deadly shooting and shelling in the capital, Khartoum, and other parts of Sudan.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said there were “specific threats and violence directed towards diplomats” which led to the decision to evacuate staff. He added that by relocating the embassy to a nearby country, diplomats could provide more assistance to those in Sudan. However, he noted that the government’s ability to evacuate other British nationals was “severely limited” until fighting between warring parties stopped.
Some UK nationals in Khartoum have told the BBC they felt abandoned by the UK government, with one woman saying she had not been given “much information at all” about possible evacuation plans. The near-constant shooting and bombing in Khartoum and elsewhere has cut electricity and safe access to food and water for much of the population. The western region of Darfur has also been badly affected by the fighting.
A number of ceasefires have been ignored, including a supposed three-day pause to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started on Friday. A hotline has been set up for those who need urgent help, and UK citizens in Sudan are being urged to tell the Foreign Office where they are in case more help becomes available.
The UK’s move follows the evacuation of US diplomats in the early hours of Sunday morning, and Defence Minister Ben Wallace thanked both France and the US for their assistance. Several other countries including France, the Netherlands and Italy have also begun evacuating citizens.
Wallace said the evacuation of UK diplomatic staff was complex as the embassy was located between the two warring factions’ headquarters in Khartoum. He added that young children were among those who were evacuated. A second Cobra meeting – an emergency response committee made up of ministers, civil servants and others – is planned for Sunday evening to discuss the situation in Sudan.
If you are a British national in Sudan and need urgent help, please contact the Foreign Office hotline or email HaveYourSay@bbc.co.uk. Please include your name, age and location with any submission.