There are understood to be around 4,000 British passport holders in Sudan – as foreign secretary James Cleverly warned the UK government is “severely limited” in its ability to help British nationals until the conflict there ends.
It comes after diplomats and staff in Sudan have been evacuated by governments around the world as rival generals battle for a ninth day with no sign of a truce that had been declared for a major Muslim holiday.
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While world powers including the US and the UK airlifted their diplomats from the capital Khartoum, Sudanese citizens have desperately tried to flee the chaos, with many of them risking dangerous roads to cross the northern border into Egypt.
Fighting has raged in Omdurman, a city across the Nile River from Khartoum, according to residents, despite a hoped-for ceasefire to coincide with the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr.
More than 420 people, including 246 civilians, have been killed while over 3,700 have been injured in a bloody conflict between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.
The RSF claimed the armed forces unleashed air strikes on the upscale area of Kafouri, north of Khartoum.
Andrew Mitchell, the UK minister for International Development and Africa, told Sky News’s Kay Burley this morning that there is a “situation of chaos and enormous violence in Sudan”, adding that the “absolute number one requirement is to get a ceasefire”.
He said: “We will do everything we can and I mean everything to get our British citizens out.”
Mr Mitchell said that an “extremely successful but complicated operation was conducted yesterday morning which got the diplomats out”.
“We have a specific duty of care for the diplomats, but I must stress that these diplomats were in acute danger because the guns were on either side of the British embassy and the British residence, and we got them out as fast as we could, as did the Americans get their diplomats out.”
He said the focus now is on getting British citizens out of Sudan.
“Since we went into 24/7 crisis mode on the Sudan situation our intention always has been to facilitate the exit of our own citizens as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Asked how that could happen, he said: “All I can tell you is that every single option is being explored in detail and the moment that it is possible to change the travel advice and move them, we will.”
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Foreign Secretary James Cleverly chaired a sixth Sudan Cobra session on Sunday night to discuss the “escalation” of violence in the African nation.
Mr Cleverly said the government remained “absolutely committed to supporting” Britons in the country, but he said that until a ceasefire is reached, ministers were “severely limited in our ability to provide assistance to British nationals”.
Senior opposition MPs said they are “deeply concerned” about the welfare of British nationals still in Sudan.
Irish citizens who remain in Sudan have been urged to stay indoors, with Micheal Martin saying that further information will be communicated to them on airlift operations.
“This will take some days,” the Tanaiste and foreign affairs minister said.
“I think we’re pleased with the initial outcome in the last 24 hours but it is something that’s very, very fluid, and bear in mind that the conflict is a ferocious one.”
Violence affects operations at airports
The ongoing violence has impacted operations at the main international airport, destroying civilian planes and damaging at least one runway, with thick, black smoke rising above it. Other airports have also been forced out of operation.
US special forces swiftly evacuated 70 US Embassy workers from Khartoum to Ethiopia on Sunday following a week of battles that hindered rescues.
Other countries have also managed to remove their citizens as well as their diplomats despite American officials saying it was too dangerous for a government-coordinated evacuation of thousands of private citizens.
Meanwhile, France and Italy said they would accommodate all their citizens who wish to leave, along with those from other countries who could not otherwise join an evacuation operation.
Officials said President Emmanuel Macron and his foreign minister were given security guarantees by both sides for the evacuation.
On Sunday, two French flights took off from Khartoum to Djibouti, carrying around 2,000 passengers from various countries, with more planned for today.
Germany’s foreign ministry said a military plane carrying 101 German diplomatic staff, family members and citizens of partner countries who were evacuated from Sudan via Jordan had landed safely in Berlin.
An Italian air force C-130 that left Khartoum with evacuees landed on Sunday night at an air base in Djibouti.
Around 100 people were flown out of the Sudanese capital by Spanish military aircraft including 30 Spaniards – with the rest from Portugal, Italy, Poland, Ireland, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina, the foreign ministry said.
And Jordanian officials said four planes landed at Amman military airport carrying 343 evacuees from Port Sudan, while other flights from Sudan were organised by Greece and the Netherlands.
Poland and the Netherlands have also begun evacuating their citizens.
Last week, militants attacked a US Embassy convoy and stormed the EU ambassador’s home.
The power struggle between the Sudanese military, headed by Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, led by Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, has dealt a harsh blow to Sudan’s hopes for a democratic transition.
The rival generals rose to power following a pro-democracy uprising which prompted the removal of the former strongman, Mr al-Bashir. The generals joined forces to seize power in a coup in 2021.