Britons racing to flee Sudan have until mid-day to evacuate

Britons racing to flee Sudan have until mid-day to get to evacuation airfield after Government announced last plane out will be tonight

  • The UK will end its evacuation of British nationals from Sudan later today
  • Read more: Tensions rise with Germany over Sudan evacuation in Khartoum  

British nationals fleeing Sudan have until today to reach the evacuation airfield after the Government announced that flights out of the war-torn country will end in the next few hours.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is urging Brits left in Sudan to travel to the Wadi Saeedna site before 12pm local time when the last plane leaves.

Some 1,573 people have been evacuated from the airfield near the capital of Khartoum on 13 planes but thousands more British citizens may remain.

It comes amid criticism of the pace of the British evacuation, which was bought more time after a three-day extension to the ceasefire between warring generals was agreed on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden denied the Government will effectively ‘abandon’ those who have been unable to make the potentially dangerous journey to the airfield with its decision to cease flights.

An Army paramedic comforts a baby following treatment during the evacuation of British nationals, at Wadi Seidna Air Base on April 27 

Some 1,573 people have been evacuated from the airfield near the capital of Khartoum on 13 planes but thousands more British citizens may remain

The evacuations from the unstable country have been fraught with difficulty and a Turkish plane was shot at by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) earlier today. 

What is happening in Sudan and why? 

Fighting has erupted across Khartoum and at other sites in Sudan in a battle between two powerful rival military factions: the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The fighting between the forces, each loyal to a top general, has put the nation at risk of collapse.

Both sides have tens of thousands of fighters, foreign backers, mineral riches and other resources that could insulate them from sanctions. 

The fighting began as Sudan attempted to transition to democracy and has already killed hundreds of people and left millions trapped in urban areas, sheltering from gunfire, explosions and looters.

The popular uprising had raised hopes that Sudan and its population of 46million could emerge from decades of autocracy, internal conflict and economic isolation under Bashir.

The current fighting could not only destroy those hopes but destabilise a volatile region bordering the Sahel, the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa.

British diplomats were airlifted from the country last weekend in a military maneuver involving 1,200 service people, the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary confirmed on Sunday, after the officials had received direct threats. 

The Government is facing renewed pressure to broaden the eligibility criteria for evacuation after it cited a decline in the number of UK passport holders coming forward as its reason for ending its rescue operation.

Officials have extended the evacuation to all NHS doctors in Sudan, reversing its previous policy.

It comes after around 20 doctors were turned away at the airport because they were not British nationals. 

Concerns have been raised that the current approach could see families split up or some members left behind, with Labour calling on ministers to use the longer window to rescue others.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said operations would cease following a ‘significant decline’ in the number of British nationals seeking to flee the war-torn country.

Concerns have been raised that the current approach could see families split up or some members left behind, with Labour calling on ministers to use the longer window to extend eligibility for evacuation before it is ‘too late’.

Updated guidance on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website urged those wishing to leave Sudan to travel to the Wadi Saeedna airfield by 12pm local time on Saturday to be processed for the last flight.

More than 1,500 people have been evacuated from Sudan, the ‘vast majority’ of whom are British nationals and eligible dependants, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said.

British nationals walk to board an RAF aircraft, during the evacuation to Cyprus, at Wadi Seidna Air Base

The race is on to evacuate as many of the 4,000 British civilians trapped in Sudan as possible before the 72-hour ceasefire ends 

More than 1,500 people have been evacuated from Sudan, the ‘vast majority’ of whom are British nationals

Updated guidance on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website urged those wishing to leave Sudan to travel to the Wadi Saeedna airfield by 12pm local time

He denied that the Government will effectively ‘abandon’ British citizens who have not been able to reach Wadi Saeedna airfield.

Asked whether Britain was leaving behind people struggling to get to the site or to coordinate with family members stuck in the country, he said: ‘I wouldn’t accept that characterisation. The first thing I would say is that every single British national that has come forward and their eligible dependants have been put safely on to a plane.

‘We are seeing those numbers declining significantly and, just like other countries, as those numbers decline we have put an end date on this.’

He claimed ‘consular assistance’ will remain available at exit routes after the end of evacuation flights.

On Friday, a Turkish evacuation plane was shot at by paramilitary forces in Sudan as it was landing in the capital of Khartoum, damaging the fuel supply.

People gather to ride a truck to flee outside Khartoum, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum

The plane managed to land safely after the paramilitary forces opened fire and is being fixed (pictured), Sudan’s army said

A Turkish evacuation plane was shot at by paramilitary forces in Sudan as it was landing in the capital of Khartoum, damaging the fuel supply 

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot at the aircraft (pictured) at the Wadi Saeedna airbase, the army said 

Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot at the aircraft at the Wadi Saeedna airbase, the army said, in a sign of just how dangerous the situation is for those racing to evacuate civilians from the war-torn country.

The plane managed to land safely after the paramilitary forces opened fire and is being fixed, Sudan’s army said.

The RSF denied firing at the plane and said the army was ‘spreading lies’, adding: ‘Our forces have remained strictly committed to the humanitarian truce that we agreed upon since midnight, and it is not true that we targeted any aircraft in the sky of Wadi Seyidna in Omdurman.’ 

Tensions with German forces on the ground have been running high since a near-miss incident on Tuesday, Berlin sources told The Times. 

Allies on the ground were apparently not notified about the arrival of the C-130J Hercules at the Wadi Seidna air base on Tuesday, resulting in a ‘very dangerous’ landing.

The German government was ‘very unhappy’ about Britain’s ‘lack of solidarity’.

It comes after the German Foreign Minister swiped at the UK for leaving citizens ‘to their own devices’ amid the violence.

British Nationals boarding an RAF aircraft in Sudan, for evacuation to Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus 


German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (left) swiped at the UK earlier this week she would not leave citizens ‘to their own devices’. But Suella Braverman (right) said Britain was in a ‘very different situation’  

However, British officials have hit back, arguing that German forces were not in control of the airfield at the time, and French and South African soldiers were informed.

Violence broke out after a group of mediators pushed for last-ditch talks between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo two weeks ago.

But neither of Sudan’s two most powerful men showed up to the meeting, convened at presidential offices in central Khartoum at 10 a.m. on April 15, three of the Sudanese mediators said, in details revealed for the first time here.

Instead, fighting was breaking out across the country.

At about 8.30 a.m. shooting started at the Soba military camp in the south of Khartoum, according to three eyewitnesses and an advisor within Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Read more: Tensions rise with Germany over Sudan evacuation as British military is accused of landing plane in Khartoum ‘unannounced and dangerously’ 

It has not been established who fired the first shot, but the violence escalated quickly across Africa’s third-largest country, an illustration of just how far the two sides had gone in the preceding weeks to prepare for all-out war.

Through interviews with nearly a dozen sources in the military, the RSF, officials and diplomats, Reuters has reconstructed several key events in the build up to the violence, which has so far killed at least 512 people, prompted tens of thousands to flee and deepened the country’s already grave humanitarian crisis.

A week before the fighting, on April 8, Burhan and Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, met for the last time at a farm on the outskirts of Khartoum, a diplomat briefed on the meeting and two of the mediators said.

At the encounter, Burhan asked for the withdrawal of RSF forces from al-Fasher, a city in Hemedti’s stronghold of Darfur in Western Sudan, and a halt to flows of RSF troops into Khartoum, which had been taking place for weeks.

Hemedti in turn asked that forces from Burhan’s close ally Egypt be withdrawn from an air base called Merowe, fearing they could be used against him, the two mediators and the diplomat said.

The men also spoke privately and appeared to agree to deescalate, the two mediators said. But despite plans to talk again the next day, no more meetings took place.

Over the next week, behind the scenes, each was steadily preparing for the worst.

Burhan’s air force was studying where the RSF was gathered, using coordinates provided by the army, two military sources told Reuters, describing plans that have not previously been reported. The RSF, meanwhile, had been locating more and more gunmen at Soba and other camps across Khartoum, the same military sources said.

The air force, which has bombed positions in the capital since fighting erupted, studied the location of RSF camps for more than a week before the battles began, the two military sources said. The army also established a small committee of senior generals to prepare for a possible conflict with the RSF, the same sources said.

On Saturday, April 15, the first volleys of the war woke RSF troops stationed at Soba, Moussa Khadam Mohamed, an advisor to Hemedti, told Reuters in an telephone interview.

Looking beyond the walls of the camp, they saw the army had positioned cannons in the vicinity, he said.

‘We observed a force gathering at the base,’ as well as around Hemedti’s home in Khartoum, he said.

Both the army and the RSF were quick to blame the other publicly for sparking the violence and attempting a power grab.

Smoke rises during clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 28, despite the ceasefire in Khartoum

The events described have not been independently verified. 

In response to written questions, a spokesman for the armed forces, Brigadier General Nabil Abdullah, said the army had been preparing to repel, not launch a war, in response to indications of an RSF attack.

He said the RSF had attacked first, taking many soldiers prisoner, and the army moved to repel the aggression. The army was conducting its campaign under its established chain of command, and the RSF had become a legitimate target for the air force after the fighting started, he added.

The offices of Hemedti and Burhan did not respond to requests for interviews.

A temporary truce this week was agreed under pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia, who along with the United Nations and the African Union are concerned that Sudan could fragment, destabilising a volatile region.

The lull allowed thousands of Khartoum residents and foreign visitors to flee the capital. Although the truce was extended late on Thursday, air strikes and anti-aircraft fire again rocked the city.

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