Brits trapped in Sudan have accused the government of ‘abandoning’ them as they prepare a ‘surgical’ evacuation of diplomatic officials from the country.
Last night, the UK began drawing up plans for a military airlift of a dozen British diplomats as well as their families from the embassy in the capital, Khartoum.
There are a supposed 25 diplomats in total connected to the embassy – many of whom are sheltering in their homes since the beginning of the conflict.
There are still several hundred other Britons living in the country, however, and ministers and Whitehall officials have stated that a wider evacuation has not been possible at this stage.
Trapped civilians from the UK said it had taken five days for the embassy to contact them with a telephone number they could use to register with the foreign office.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden leaves BBC Broadcasting House on April 23, 2023
A teacher told the Times that several people had been unable to dial through and were forced to ask family in the UK to call the number on their behalf.
‘The first five days were ridiculous, and farcical actually. I couldn’t believe they would continue to not do anything,’ William said.
British ambassador to Sudan, Giles Lever and his deputy were abroad when the violence began and have not been able to return.
Irritated senior figures in Whitehall have likened the situation to the chaos of the Afghanistan evacuation in August 2021. A source said: ‘It’s Kabul all over again.’
William said the capacity of the embassy to help was ‘tiny’.
‘There is someone who we have direct contact with, but there is scarcity of anybody above her in the embassy,’ he added.
A drone view shows smoke rising over buildings a week after fighting began in North Khartoum, as seen from Omdurman, Sudan, April 22, 2023
People carry water during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, April 22, 2023
A source inside the foreign office retaliated to the criticism, arguing that Lever’s presence in London had been essential.
Fighting broke out last weekend, with army units loyal to Sudan’s military ruler, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, pitted against Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is deputy head of the ruling council.
More than 400 people have been killed, including a United Nations worker and an American citizen. A number of westerners have also had their homes and compounds ransacked.
The Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said the situation was ‘rapidly moving’ as he highlighted the differences between the likely British response in the African nation compared to the Afghanistan evacuation in 2021.
Asked on Sky news‘ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme whether the UK was preparing to evacuate Sudan of British nationals, Oliver Dowden said: ‘The situation in respect of Sudan is clearly a rapidly moving and complex situation.
‘Our priority is to support British nationals. Now, the Ministry of Defence is acting in support of the Foreign Office but clearly you wouldn’t expect me to comment for security reasons on the current situation in terms of movement on the ground.’
Pressed on whether there are plans to evacuate Sudan of UK citizens, Mr Dowden added: ‘This is a very different situation, for example, to the situation that you saw in Afghanistan for a number of reasons.
‘First of all, this situation has arisen very rapidly and, secondly, we just don’t have the kind of scale of resources on the ground that were there in Afghanistan.
Smoke billows over residential buildings in eastern Khartoum on April 22, 2023, during ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals
An aerial view shows a mosque, as conflict between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army continues, in Omdurman, Sudan April 21, 2023
‘Clearly, we need to make sure that we support our British nationals. At the moment, the advice to British nationals is to make sure they stay indoors, that they stay safe and get in contact with the Foreign Office.’
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jon Ashworth said people are ‘deeply, deeply troubled and alarmed’ about what is happening in Sudan.
He told Sky news‘ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: ‘As to the question around evacuations and so on, it does seem a legitimate question as to why our Government is not acting in the same way that other governments are acting.
‘I hope we can have a clarification from the Foreign Office, perhaps in Parliament in the coming days, on that front.’
Across the Atlantic, US troops swooped in on helicopters to evacuate embassy staff from Sudan’s battle-torn capital, President Joe Biden said Sunday, as other nations sought to help their citizens flee deadly fighting between rival generals.
France on Sunday also launched evacuation operations from the northeast African nation, where ongoing fighting has entered its second week.
Ferocious battles between the Sudanese army and a paramilitary group – which has seen fighting with tanks in densely populated Khartoum and air strikes launched by fighter jets – have killed more than 400 people and left thousands wounded.
Biden, who said the US military ‘conducted an operation’ to extract US government personnel, condemned the violence, saying ‘it’s unconscionable and it must stop’.
Just over 100 US special operations troops took part in the rescue to extract fewer than 100 people, which saw three Chinook helicopters fly from Djibouti, staying on the ground in Khartoum for less than an hour.
France’s foreign ministry said Sunday a ‘rapid evacuation operation’ had begun, and that European citizens and those from ‘allied partner countries’ would also be assisted, without giving further details.
Fighting continued Sunday with the crackle of automatic gunfire echoing across Khartoum and Sudanese military aircraft roaring overhead, witnesses said.
Frightened residents, many low on water, food and other essentials, have huddled inside their homes in the chaos-torn city where buildings have been gutted, lampposts are lying on the ground, and smoke has been rising from shops set on fire.
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12004125/Britons-trapped-Sudan-accuse-government-abandoning-them.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270