The UK has launched a “complex” and “dangerous” mission to evacuate around 4,000 UK passport holders who have been stranded in Sudan after heavy fighting broke out in the east African country. The Royal Air Force (RAF) planes will collect people from an airfield near Khartoum, with priority given to families with children, the elderly, and those with medical conditions. The first Hercules left Sudan on August 10th, carrying an advance team, rather than people evacuated from Khartoum.
Britons Must Reach Airfield Themselves
Britons will have to reach the airfield themselves, negotiating checkpoints and potential outbreaks of fighting, as no escorts are being provided. This makes the situation dangerous and difficult, but the UK is providing what assistance they can and operating as quickly as possible. The situation is fundamentally different from the chaotic evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan when the Taliban took control in 2021.
Fears Over Ceasefire
It appears to be a race against time as there are fears over whether a 72-hour ceasefire, which began late on Monday, will hold. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was “impossible for us to predict how long this opportunity will last”. Around 1,400 military personnel are believed to be involved in the UK operation.
Other Potential Points of Exit
The Foreign Office said it is also looking at other potential “points of exit,” possibly by sea via Port Sudan. Two ships, RFA Cardigan Bay and HMS Lancaster, are being lined up in case they are needed. Although the airborne evacuations carry obvious risks for the RAF, such as potential exposure to gunfire or even missiles, the UK is trying to get as many citizens out as possible.
The violence in Sudan comes after rival generals fell out over a deal to incorporate the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group into the military. The army and RSF mounted a coup together in 2021 after long-time ruler Omar al Bashir was overthrown in a popular uprising two years earlier. However, their relationship broke down during negotiations to integrate and form a civilian government.
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