Sudan to be evacuated of British embassy staff ‘as soon as feasible’

Sudan will be evacuated of British embassy staff “as soon as feasible” due to safety fears following increasing attacks on diplomatic missions, a British Government source has said.

Ministers are keen to help British officials to exit the African country, which is currently into a second week of bloody internal fighting between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

But a British Government source said any evacuation would be “incredibly limited” and focused on the small number of British civil servants based in the capital Khartoum.

Any military effort to help airlift people out of the country is not expected to be on the same scale as seen in Afghanistan in 2021, especially given Britain does not have a substantial diplomatic or military footprint in Sudan.

Britons in the warring nation are continuing to be advised to ensure they have registered their presence with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and to stay indoors.

“Due to the increasing attacks on diplomatic missions, we will be evacuating our HMG staff as soon as feasible,” a British Government source said.

“It’s likely any evacuation will be incredibly limited due to the small number of UK staff in the country, and British nationals should remain in a place of shelter.

“There is currently no suggestion British nationals are being actively targeted by armed factions.”

The source said British options were “likely to be extremely limited for the foreseeable”.

They added: “We do not expect any major change in our travel advice to Sudan for British nationals in the coming days.”

The comments come after the Sudanese army said it is co-ordinating efforts to evacuate foreign citizens and diplomats from Sudan on military aircraft, including Britons, Americans, French and Chinese.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) would not confirm whether it was assisting with the suggested plans.

A source in the department said it was planning for a wide range of scenarios, alongside the Foreign Office, on how it could assist in Sudan.

With reports suggesting the British Army is on standby to help with a potential evacuation, the MoD pointed out that a high-readied armed forces unit is always on hand to be deployed should they be required.

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.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday chaired the fourth emergency Cobra meeting on the Sudan situation.

He was joined by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Africa minister Andrew Mitchell for the discussions.

A 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.”

Battles continue to rage in and around Khartoum between the Sudanese army led by Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan and his rival paramilitary group.

The clashes have killed more than 400 people so far, according to the World Health Organisation.

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.(PA Media/dpa/NAN)