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British Diplomats Evacuated From Sudan in ‘Complex and Rapid’ Operation, Sunak Says

The British military has evacuated UK diplomats and their families from war-torn Sudan in a “complex and rapid” operation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

Hundreds have died in a bloody conflict between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, which broke out eight days ago.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Sunak said: “UK armed forces have completed a complex and rapid evacuation of British diplomats and their families from Sudan, amid a significant escalation in violence and threats to embassy staff.

“I pay tribute to the commitment of our diplomats and bravery of the military personnel who carried out this difficult operation.

Epoch Times Photo
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech during a gala dinner at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, Northern Ireland, on April 19, 2023. (Charles McQuillan/PA Media)

“We are continuing to pursue every avenue to end the bloodshed in Sudan and ensure the safety of British nationals remaining in the country.

“I urge the parties to lay down their arms and implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to ensure civilians can leave conflict zones.”

‘Escalating Threats’

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the operation involved more than 1,200 personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force (RAF).

“This morning, UK armed forces undertook a military operation alongside the United States, France, and other allies,” Wallace said in a written statement.

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Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace poses for a group picture on the second day of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Oct. 13, 2022. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

“They have evacuated British embassy staff and their dependants from Khartoum due to the escalating threats against diplomats.

“The operation involved more than 1,200 personnel from 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines, and the RAF. I am grateful to all our partners.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy also paid tribute to the armed forces.

“Grateful for the brave armed forces personnel who undertook this operation,” Lammy wrote on Twitter, adding, “Our diplomats around the world play a vital role.”

But he said he remains “very concerned about UK nationals still in Sudan,” and urged the Foreign Office to “do everything to support them and press for a ceasefire.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that the government’s “top priority remains the safety of British nationals.”

“We are working around the clock to broker international support to end the bloodshed in Sudan,” he wrote on Twitter.

Continuing Diplomatic Support

According to the foreign secretary, “specific threats” had caused the UK government to “temporarily close the British embassy in Khartoum, to evacuate the British diplomats and their dependants, and relocate our diplomatic functions into a nearby diplomatic post.”

Cleverly told broadcasters that a “temporary lull” in the fighting had allowed UK armed forces to make their move and help get the officials out of the warring nation.

But he emphasised that the government remains “absolutely committed to supporting British nationals in Sudan.”

Cleverly argued that relocating embassy staff would give ministers the “best opportunity to project our diplomatic support into Sudan.”

Asked why diplomats had been prioritised, he told broadcasters: “The diplomats that were working in the British embassy in Khartoum have been unable to discharge their functions because of the violence in that city.”

“We will continue on our diplomatic effort to bring this conflict to a swift conclusion because until that happens, we are severely limited in our ability to provide assistance to British nationals,” he added.

‘Back to Peace’

The Sudanese army had on Saturday said Britain was one of a number of nations, including the United States and China, that it would be assisting to help remove its officials from the dangerous conditions in the country.

Prospects of airlifting people out of Sudan had been complicated by the fact most major airports have become battlegrounds and movement out of the capital has proven perilous.

The UK government has stated that a more large-scale evacuation could prove a challenge, with Britain lacking the military footprint it had in Afghanistan which saw thousands airlifted out of Kabul during Operation Pitting in 2021.

Speaking to broadcasters on Sunday, Wallace, the defence secretary, said: “Our involvement is obviously limited to trying to engage for the safety of our British nationals. But, ultimately, what we want is peace to return.

“There was originally a peace programme where two factions, the Sudan armed forces and another military faction, were working towards integration.

“That broke down and that’s what has caused the conflict. We urge those parties very much to get back to the talks and back to peace.

“Sudan was on the right path and I think we need to continue to support that in whatever way we can, and I know the U.N. and the international community will be doing their best.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

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