Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss assistance for British nationals trapped in Sudan today, as Saudi Arabia says it has already brought foreign nationals out of the war torn country.
More than 150 people from various nations reached the safety of Saudi Arabia today, in the first announced evacuation of civilians from Sudan.
It comes as more than 100 SAS and Paras are being flown to the Middle East as troops wait for the order to rescue the UK citizens.
British citizens trapped in the country have said they feel ‘abandoned’ and ‘left in the dark’ by the government, who has said it is currently preparing for ‘a number of contingencies’.
It comes as Saudi Arabia, the first country to announce the evacuation of civilians, shared footage of Saudis and other foreign citizens from ‘brotherly’ nations being brought to safety by boat.
The Sudanese army said earlier that it was co-ordinating efforts to evacuate American, British, Chinese and French citizens and diplomats from Sudan on military aircraft as bloody fighting entered its second week.
Saudi Arabia’s official Al-Ikhbaryia TV channel shared footage of a boat used in the evacuation of Saudi citizens and other nationals from Sudan
People carry on their shoulders Othman Mohamed, a senior general loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, on April 20
Sudanese army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, sit atop a tank in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, on Thursday
Aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International Airport amid ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals in Sudan’s capital Khartoum
But the prospect has angered officials as most major airports have become battlegrounds and movement out of the capital, Khartoum, has proven intensely dangerous.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed that a meeting in the Cabinet Office took place this morning, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Africa minister Andrew Mitchell.
Government officials said they are ‘doing everything possible’ to support those still inside the country’s capital, Khartoum.
The FCDO has not confirmed the reports but it is understood an evacuation is not imminent.
Earlier today, Sudan’s army said its chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan received calls from leaders of multiple countries to ‘facilitate and guarantee safety for evacuating citizens and diplomatic missions’.
It noted that the evacuations were expected to begin ‘in the coming hours’, adding that the US, Britain, France and China are planning to airlift their nationals out of Khartoum using military planes.
British SAS troops will prepare for operations at a secret base ahead of a possible mission to rescue those trapped by the fighting.
The Sudanese army is battling a powerful rival paramilitary in and around Khartoum.
The conflict between Russian-backed rebels and government forces has led to more than 400 deaths in the last week.
Prospects of airlifting people out of Sudan have been complicated by the fact most major airports in the country have become battlegrounds and movement out of the capital has proven dangerous.
A UK Government spokesman said: ‘We recognise that the situation is extremely concerning for British nationals trapped by the fighting in Sudan.
‘We are doing everything possible to support British nationals and diplomatic staff in Khartoum, and the Ministry of Defence is working with the Foreign Office to prepare for a number of contingencies.’
A British citizen who is stuck in the country told the BBC: ‘It remains very depressing, worrying and confusing to be a Brit on the ground here… We’re still very much in the dark’.
‘We don’t have a plan, we don’t even have a kind of plan for a plan. We understand that this is a fast-evolving situation but to be honest we’ve just in many senses been completely abandoned here.’
And a British-Sudanese woman caught up in the violence said she has received no communication from the British Embassy, and has been forced to shelter for days without water or electricity.
Rozan Ahmed told Sky news: ‘I have heard nothing but explosions and gunfire, and shelling screams for the past six hours. Only now has it died down.
‘On top of that we have to deal with the fact that there are rogue soldiers walking around our streets, randomly raiding our homes, and then we don’t have water.’
She asked for an explanation from the government as to why she and her family have not yet been evacuated.
Saudi Arabia earlier announced the successful repatriation of some of its citizens, sharing footage of Saudi nationals and other foreigners welcomed with chocolate and flowers as they stepped off an apparent evacuation ship at the Saudi port of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabian media shared footage which it claimed shows Saudi citizens and other foreign nationals arriving in Jeddah, upon their rescue from Sudan
TV footage Saudi deputy Foreign Minister Walid al-Khuraiji (right) welcoming Saudi citizens and other nationals upon their arrival in Jeddah
Officials did not elaborate on exactly how the rescue unfolded but Burhan said the Saudi diplomats and nationals had first traveled by land to Port Sudan, the country’s main seaport on the Red Sea.
He said that Jordan’s diplomats would soon be evacuated in the same way. The port is in Sudan’s far east, some 520 miles from Khartoum.
In a security alert, the US Embassy in Sudan said it had ‘incomplete information about significant convoys departing Khartoum traveling towards Port Sudan’ and that the situation remained dangerous.
‘Traveling in any convoy is at your own risk,’ it said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured in Downing Street this morning) has held an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss assistance for British nationals trapped in Sudan as fighting continues
Brits held up in Sudan are advised to register with the FCDO and to stay indoors, with skirmishes taking place even in residential areas. They must provide their whereabouts, contact details and to state whether they wish to leave the country or remain there.
This will allow planners at Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), in Northwood, north-west London, to work out how many they may have to rescue.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has also cut short an official visit to New Zealand to deal with the crisis. The SAS are expected to be accompanied by a company of soldiers from the Parachute Regiment. During Operation Pitting in 2021, the Paras led the effort to secure Kabul airport after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office has advised UK citizens in Sudan to register their presence. They must provide their whereabouts, contact details and to state whether they wish to leave the country or remain there
The RAF will play a central role in any evacuation. Last night, the service was cancelling scheduled flights to other destinations so aircraft could join the airlift.
British soldiers currently on exercise in Kenya were expecting to fly back to the UK. But, according to Army sources, the Coldstream Guards have been told they will have to remain in the country.
The SAS and Paras will join forces with US troops in any rescue mission, which is complicated by intense fighting around the airport in the capital Khartoum.
In the US, the Pentagon said earlier this week it was moving additional troops and equipment to a naval base in the tiny Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti to prepare for the evacuation of US embassy personnel.
But the White House said on Friday that it had no plans for a government co-ordinated evacuation of an estimated 16,000 American citizens trapped in Sudan.
Mr Sunak on Friday spoke with the president of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh.
While no mention of using the nation’s airbases was made in the readout from Downing Street, a No 10 spokesman said the two leaders agreed to ‘continue to co-ordinate efforts to de-escalate the violence and protect civilians, including our citizens’.
There are no signs of the trouble abating as yet.
Even as the warring sides said on Friday that they had agreed to a ceasefire for the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, explosions and gunfire rang out across Khartoum on Saturday.
Two ceasefire attempts earlier this week also rapidly collapsed.
Britain has historic ties to Sudan. In an unusual arrangement, Britain and Egypt jointly ruled Sudan from 1899 until it gained independence in 1956, but Sudan is not among the group of 56 Commonwealth nations.
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