Armed forces minister hints at plans to rescue UK nationals in Sudan

3 min read

Armed forces minister hints at plans to rescue UK nationals in Sudan

James Heappey says ‘job isn’t done’ in evacuating as many as 4,000 Britons and dual nationals trapped in war zone

James Heappey, the minister for the armed forces, hinted at possible further military action to help Britons trapped in Sudan, and that the UK recognises that “the job isn’t done” when it comes to rescuing the 4,000 or more British and dual nationals trapped in Sudan.

“Work is under way in [the Ministry of Defence] and has been all weekend and the back end of last week to give the prime minister and Cobra options for what else could be done to support the wider community of British nationals in Sudan,” the defence minister told reporters as a storm gathered over Britain’s decision to rescue only its diplomats when other countries were evacuating both diplomats and nationals.

The minister said that discussions in government were continuing “at pace” and that Rishi Sunak would be given options to help Britons trapped in Sudan “as and when they arise”, but added that there was a concern that the military situation was highly unstable given the fighting between government and RSF rebel forces.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, on Monday warned that the violence in Sudan “risks a catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the whole region and beyond” and called on Security Council members to exert maximum leverage.

Heappey said Sunday’s rescue involving two RAF planes – an Airbus A400M and a Hercules C-130 – operating via the Akrotiri base in Cyprus “went without a hitch.” Planes landed via an airfield at Wadi Seidna, which is about 30km north of Khartoum, and the UK worked with France and Germany to fly in and out this weekend.

He said the Ministry of Defence continued to look at arranging further evacuations by air, road and sea – although nothing had yet been decided – but that the Wadi Seidna airfield was small and only able to handle two A400M-size aircraft at any one time, limiting the number of people that could be evacuated at any one time.

The UK development minister, Andrew Mitchell, had earlier said British nationals still in Sudan could be given any assurances about evacuations. The UK airlifted its diplomats out of Sudan on Sunday, leaving other British citizens behind awaiting further instructions. Asked why diplomats but not citizens had been evacuated, Mitchell said “we have a specific duty of care, a legal duty of care, to our own staff and our diplomats” and that there had been “a very specific threat to the diplomatic community” in Khartoum.

In a round of interviews on Monday morning, Mitchell said he could not give a timeline for when it would be possible to rescue British nationals. “The situation is absolutely desperate and a ceasefire is required,” he said. “The only advice that Britain can give to people is to stay indoors because that is the safe option.”

However, he added: “Many of the Brits there are very creative and know the situation on the ground, and if at their own risk they determine there is a way for them to leave their own homes then of course they will take it.”

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