Sudan is being evacuated “as soon as possible” by British embassy staff for security reasons after mounting attacks on diplomatic missions, a British government source has said.
Ministers are keen to help British officials leave the African country, which is currently locked in a second week of bloody internal fighting between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.
However, a UK government source said any evacuation would be “incredibly limited” and focused on the small number of British officials in the capital, Khartoum.
Military efforts in support of the airlift out of the country are not expected to reach the same scale as in Afghanistan in 2021, especially given that the UK has no significant diplomatic or military presence in Sudan.
Brits in the warring nation are still advised to ensure they have registered their presence with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and remain indoors.
“Due to increasing attacks on diplomatic missions, we will evacuate our HMG staff as soon as possible,” a UK government source said.
“It is likely that any evacuation will be incredibly limited due to the small number of British staff in the country and British nationals should remain in a safe haven.
“There is currently no indication that British nationals are being actively targeted by armed factions.”
The source said UK options are “likely extremely limited for the foreseeable future”.
They added: “We do not expect any significant changes to our travel advice for British nationals to Sudan in the coming days.”
The comments come after the Sudanese army said it was coordinating efforts to evacuate foreign nationals and diplomats from Sudan on military planes, including British, Americans, French and Chinese.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) declined to confirm whether it supports the proposed plans.
A source in the department said it was planning a variety of scenarios alongside the foreign ministry for how it could help in Sudan.
Amid reports suggesting the British Army is ready to help with a possible evacuation, the Ministry of Defense warned that a highly armored unit of the armed forces is always on hand to deploy if necessary.
Prospects of airlifting people from Sudan have been complicated by the fact that most of the country’s major airports have become battlegrounds and movement from the capital has proven dangerous.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chaired Cobra’s fourth emergency meeting on the situation in Sudan on Saturday.
The talks were joined by Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Africa Secretary Andrew Mitchell.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We recognize that the situation is extremely worrying for British nationals who have been trapped by the fighting in Sudan.
“We are doing everything we can to support British nationals and diplomatic staff in Khartoum and the Ministry of Defense is working with the Foreign Office to prepare for a range of contingencies.”
Fighting continues in and around Khartoum between the Sudanese army led by Army Chief General Abdel Fattah Burhan and his rival paramilitary group.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 400 people have died in the clashes so far.
Even as the warring factions said on Friday they had agreed on 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 quickly failed.
Britain has historical ties to Sudan. In an unusual arrangement, Britain and Egypt co-ruled Sudan from 1899 until independence in 1956, but Sudan is not part of the Commonwealth of 56 countries.