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The UK government on Tuesday said it had launched “a large-scale evacuation” of its citizens trapped in Sudan, where 10 days of urban combat have led to hundreds of deaths.
It comes hours after a United States-brokered 72-hour ceasefire between Sudan’s warring generals officially came into effect, and following criticism in the United Kingdom that the government had abandoned British citizens there.
Britain faced pressure to act after comparisons to the chaotic evacuation of Britons after Afghanistan’s Taliban took control of Kabul in 2021.”The government has begun a large-scale evacuation of British passport holders from Sudan on RAF (Royal Air Force) flights,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
“Priority will be given to the most vulnerable, including families with children and the elderly.”
Sunak paid tribute to Britain’s armed forces, diplomats and others involved in what he called a “complex operation”.
“The UK will continue to work to end the bloodshed in Sudan and support a democratic government,” he added.
Britain carried out a military operation Sunday to withdraw its diplomats as deadly battles raged in the capital Khartoum.
But citing the dangers on the ground, it had held off on extracting its citizens more widely despite Western allies evacuating hundreds of their own passport holders.
Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said Monday that some 4,000 Britons with dual nationality and 400 with UK-only passports were in Sudan, while 2,000 people had registered with the ministry seeking help to get out.
A Foreign Office statement announcing the new evacuations said the UK military flights were due to depart from an airfield outside Khartoum.
It said UK citizens should “not make their way to the airfield unless they are called”.
“The situation remains volatile and our ability to conduct evacuations could change at short notice,” it added.