A terrified Briton trapped by the deadly fighting in Sudan has filmed rival army factions exchanging gunfire ‘very close’ to his family’s home as situation worsens for those left behind in the war-ravaged country.
Amar, from Edinburgh, recorded the heart-stopping sound of gunfire getting closer and closer to the house where he and his family are sheltering, describing the situation as ‘very scary’.
Illustrating just how dangerous the situation is for those left trapped in Sudan, Amar was forced to run inside the house when he heard the gunshots resounding outside the home.
‘This is very scary,’ Amar, who had been visiting family in Sudan when the fighting erupted last week, said as he filmed the gunfire outside his home for more than an hour. ‘This is close, I think the fighting is on my street my now. This is very close. I’m going to have to go in.’
Amar is among 4,000 Britons who remain trapped in Sudan amidst the violence after the UK government decided to only evacuate diplomats and their families – all while scores of other nations have managed to evacuate hundreds of civilians.
Scores of Britons have accused the UK government of leaving them to fend for themselves in a country where corpses are now ‘littering the streets’.
Amar, from Edinburgh, recorded the heart-stopping sound of gunfire getting closer and closer to the house where he and his family are sheltering, describing the situation as ‘very scary’
French soldiers evacuate French citizens, as part of the “Operation Sagittaire” evacuation by the French army, in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sunday
Smoke is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, on Saturday. The fighting in the capital between the Sudanese Army and Rapid Support Forces resumed after an internationally brokered cease-fire failed
‘Morgues are full, corpses litter the streets’ and overwhelmed hospitals often have to stop operations for security reasons, said Dr Attiya Abdallah, head of the Sudan doctors’ union.
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The shortages in food and water in the country, where more than 400 people have died in a week of violence, has also seen some people being forced to kill their pets to save them from starving.
Britons have accused the UK government of abandoning them with many saying they have received no help – other than being told to ‘stay inside’ – as street battles rage on outside their front doors.
Foreign Office officials and their families were brought to safety in a nighttime Special Forces operation yesterday – but British citizens said they have been left to fend for themselves.
Many have only heard from the UK Foreign Office through automated text messages telling them to stay indoors and register their whereabouts. Some Britons said they have lost hope in the Government and are trying to make their own way out amid heavy artillery fire.
While UK officials have focused their rescue efforts on evacuating diplomats, governments in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have been able to evacuate hundreds of their citizens.
Italian citizens are boarded on an Italian Air Force C130 aircraft during their evacuation from Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday
Destroyed military vehicles are seen in Khartoum, Sudan, on Thursday
Smoke fills the sky in Khartoum, Sudan, near Doha International Hospital on Friday
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the military operation carried out by UK special forces to rescue a group of 30 people made up of British diplomats and their families out of Sudan
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is facing questions over why British diplomats had been prioritised over other Sudan-based UK citizens following the evacuation mission to rescue embassy staff.
Dr Javid Abdelmoneim said the Government had put his father’s life at risk and ‘actively reducing his chances of reaching safety’ after they told him to be prepared to be evacuated – only for the Foreign Office to solely evacuate British diplomats instead.
Dr Abdelmoneim tweeted: ‘The UK Foreign Office says the ‘top priority remains the safety of British nationals’.
‘While the US informed citizens they will not be evacuated, Spanish and Germans executed a safe evacuation for theirs, the British embassy in Sudan asked my dad to be prepared… then left without a word.
‘In that time, with the expectation of a UK evacuation, my dad declined a family invite to travel overland to Egypt, [and] skipped another family convoy to Port Sudan. In transpires, UK evacuation had happened 18 hours previously, in secrecy.
‘The British embassy in Sudan actively reduced his chances of reaching safety.’
Alicia Kearns, Conservative MP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said this morning that if the Government decides it is not able to evacuate British civilians, it has a ‘moral obligation’ to tell them so that they can make their own decisions as to how they will flee the violence.
Mr Cleverly has admitted that government efforts to provide assistance to those stuck in Sudan will remain ‘severely limited’ until a ceasefire is reached.
William, a British national, told BBC Radio 4 that he had received no help from the UK Government. He said he was going to try and make his own way out of Sudan to southern Egypt in a bus organised by his Sudanese employer.
‘We’ve had absolutely nothing but nonsense from the Government,’ he said. Not even nonsense, we’ve had nothing. The last communication was that the Government was going to do nothing and so we had to take this option because it was becoming intolerable.’
Instead, the Government evacuated British diplomats and their families – while nations including France, Germany and Sweden have managed to evacuate their civilians.
Dr Javid Abdelmoneim said the Government had put his father’s life at risk and ‘actively reducing his chances of reaching safety’ after they told him to be prepared to be evacuated – only for the Foreign Office to solely evacuate British diplomats instead
Spanish diplomatic personnel and citizens wait to disembark a military plane after they were evacuated from Sudan, in Djibouti on Monday
An evacuee is embraced after disembarking from a Spanish Air and Space Force plane at Torrejon de Ardoz Airbase, Spain, on Monday
French soldiers evacuate French citizens, as part of the ‘Operation Sagittaire’ evacuation by the French army, in Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday
French citizens at the air base of the French Army forces stationed in Djibouti after French soldiers evacuate French nationals from Sudan to Djibouti on Monday
French soldiers leaving the air base of the French Army forces stationed in Djibouti before the ‘Operation Sagittaire’ to evacuate French citizens from Sudan, on Sunday
France said today it is continuing to evacuate people from Sudan, with a further evacuation having been carried out this morning, adding that its operations had so far resulted in 388 people being able to leave Sudan.
The German military has evacuated 311 people so far from an airfield near Khartoum, and the first batch of 101 people was brought back to Berlin on Monday aboard an Airbus A321 from the Al Azraq base in Jordan, which is being used as a hub for the evacuation operation.
Around 50 Irish citizens have also been evacuated from Sudan, with more evacuations planned, Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said today.
The Tanaiste and minister for foreign affairs said evacuations from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to Djibouti were carried out with the assistance of the Spanish and French.
‘About 50 Irish citizens were evacuated since yesterday from Khartoum to Djibouti with the support of France and Spain, and I want to take the opportunity to thank the French authorities and the Spanish for doing a remarkable job in terms of a wider co-ordinated evacuation of European Union citizens,’ Mr Martin told RTE Radio One.
‘The situation is fluid. We estimate there’s about 150-plus Irish citizens registered with our embassy in Nairobi – that can include dependents, so you’ll appreciate the situation is fluid.
‘But 50 have been evacuated so far and more to come. A consular team for the Department of Foreign Affairs has been on the ground in Djibouti since yesterday.’
Spanish diplomatic personnel and citizens queue outside a military plane after they were evacuated from Sudan, in Djibouti on Monday
Italian citizens board an Italian Air Force C130 aircraft during their evacuation from Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday
Jordanians evacuated from Sudan arrive at a military airport in Amman, Jordan, on Monday
Jordanians evacuated form Sudan arrive at a military airport in Amman, Jordan, on Monday
Mr Martin added: ‘The security situation is on everyone’s mind and obviously this has to be done safely and we have to protect all of our citizens.’
And Sweden said that all its embassy staff in Khartoum, their families and an unspecified number of other Swedes had been evacuated to nearby Djibouti.
Sweden said military planes and personnel would continue to help in the evacuation of foreign nationals as long as the security situation allowed.
Meanwhile, a Dutch military plane with evacuees flew from Sudan to Jordan early on Monday. People from different nationalities, including Dutch nationals, were on board the plane, the country’s foreign ministry said without giving further detail.
The ministry said it would continue to work on the evacuation of Dutch and other European Union nationals from Sudan.
The UK Foreign Office has insisted it is working around the clock to help UK nationals – but Britons have complained they have received no help. It is also not clear how the Government is planning to help the thousands left trapped in the war-torn nation.
Fatima, a British citizen trapped in Sudan, said her family have not received any support from the Foreign Office since the violence began.
She told Radio 4: ‘It’s very traumatising here and the situation is really bad, it’s getting worse. You see the clashes, the fighting. And everyone is just trying to flee and escape the country. You can see that the country is getting into a civil war.’
The fighting in Sudan has triggered a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country, where millions of people have been left without access to basic services.
Fighter jets have bombed the capital, the main airport has been at the centre of fighting and artillery barrages have made movement unsafe in and out of one of Africa’s largest cities.
At least 420 people have been killed since the fighting broke out on April 15, four years after long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled.
The army and rapid support forces jointly staged a coup in 2021 but fell out during negotiations to integrate the two groups and form a civilian government, and their rivalry has raised the risk of a wider conflict that could draw in outside powers.
Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said she felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the UK Government’s response, saying ‘no lessons’ have been learned since their evacuation efforts in Afghanistan in 2021.
Spanish planes and military vehicles are seen departing on tarmac as diplomatic personnel and citizens are evacuated in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sunday
People evacuated from Sudan arrive at a military airport in Amman on April 24
Jordanians evacuated from Sudan arrive to a military airport in Amman, Jordan, on Monday
She told Radio 4: ‘We have to think about the context in which British citizens find themselves, which will be absolute abject fear. There is very little water left, there is very little food.
‘I’m even hearing stories of people killing their pets because they are worried they are going to starve. People are terrified. And across the world, there are very limited evacuations going on because of the complexities on the ground.’
Kearns said she felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the fact that the Government has only evacuated UK diplomats and their families.
‘I don’t have access to the intelligence but inherently I feel uncomfortable. As a former Foreign Office diplomat, you are the last person out.
‘However, there was a meaningful risk to the lives of British diplomats and that’s why we saw all of our allies lift out their diplomats. But now the focus has to shift towards getting out British nationals.’
Speaking about how one British national fled to Darfur after only receiving two computer-generated messages telling him to stay inside, Ms Kearns said: ‘This would suggest that no lessons have been learned since Afghanistan, and I have urged the Government to communicate regularly with British nationals.’
Kearns added that she suspects that 4,000 British civilians remain trapped by the fighting in Sudan.
People evacuated from Sudan arrive at a military airport in Amman on April 24
On Sunday, more than 100 UK Special Forces troops, accompanied by paratroopers and marines, had been deployed to Sudan in an SAS-led operation described as ‘complex and rapid’ by Rishi Sunak.
Overall, more than 1,200 UK military personnel were involved, in Sudan, neighbouring African countries, Middle East states and Britain.
Once the SAS forces landed, they got hold of several local vehicles and drove into the city.
They sought out around two dozen British diplomats and their families who were holed up an area of Khartoum located in between two warring factions vying for control of the capital.
What is happening in Sudan?
Fighting has erupted across Khartoum and at other sites in Sudan in a battle between two powerful rival military factions, engulfing the capital in warfare for the first time and raising the risk of a nationwide civil conflict.
WHAT TRIGGERED THE VIOLENCE?
Tension had been building for months between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which together toppled a civilian government in an October 2021 coup.
The friction was brought to a head by an internationally backed plan to launch a new transition with civilian parties. A final deal was due to be signed earlier in April, on the fourth anniversary of the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising.
Both the army and the RSF were required to cede power under the plan and two issues proved particularly contentious: one was the timetable for the RSF to be integrated into the regular armed forces, and the second was when the army would be formally placed under civilian oversight.
When fighting broke out on April 15, both sides blamed the other for provoking the violence. The army accused the RSF of illegal mobilisation in preceding days and the RSF, as it moved on key strategic sites in Khartoum, said the army had tried to seize full power in a plot with Bashir loyalists.
WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS ON THE GROUND?
The protagonists in the power struggle are General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the army and leader of Sudan’s ruling council since 2019, and his deputy on the council, RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti.
As the plan for a new transition developed, Hemedti aligned himself more closely with civilian parties from a coalition, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), that shared power with the military between Bashir’s overthrow and the 2021 coup.
Diplomats and analysts said this was part of a strategy by Hemedti to transform himself into a statesman. Both the FFC and Hemedti, who grew wealthy through gold mining and other ventures, stressed the need to sideline Islamist-leaning Bashir loyalists and veterans who had regained a foothold following the coup and have deep roots in the army.
Along with some pro-army rebel factions that benefited from a 2020 peace deal, the Bashir loyalists opposed the deal for a new transition.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The popular uprising had raised hopes that Sudan and its population of 46million could emerge from decades of autocracy, internal conflict and economic isolation under Bashir.
The current fighting could not only destroy those hopes but destabilise a volatile region bordering the Sahel, the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa.
It could also play into competition for influence in the region between Russia and the United States, and between regional powers who have courted different actors in Sudan.
WHAT’S THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL ACTORS?
Western powers, including the United States, had swung behind a transition towards democratic elections following Bashir’s overthrow. They suspended financial support following the coup, then backed the plan for a new transition and a civilian government.
Energy-rich powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also sought to shape events in Sudan, seeing the transition away from Bashir’s rule as a way to roll back Islamist influence and bolster stability in the region.
Gulf states have pursued investments in sectors including agriculture, where Sudan holds vast potential, and ports on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.
Russia has been seeking to build a naval base on the Red Sea, while several UAE companies have been signing up to invest, with one UAE consortium inking a preliminary deal to build and operate a port and another UAE-based airline agreeing with a Sudanese partner to create a new low-cost carrier based in Khartoum.
Burhan and Hemedti both developed close ties to Saudi Arabia after sending troops to participate in the Saudi-led operation in Yemen. Hemedti has struck up relations with other foreign powers including the UAE and Russia.
Egypt, itself ruled by military man President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his Islamist predecessor, has deep ties to Burhan and the army, and recently promoted a parallel track of political negotiations through parties with stronger links to the army and to Bashir’s former government.
WHAT ARE THE SCENARIOS?
International parties have called for humanitarian ceasefires and a return to dialogue, but there have been few signs of compromise from the warring factions or lulls in the fighting.
The army has branded the RSF a rebel force and demanded its dissolution, while Hemedti has called Burhan a criminal and blamed him for visiting destruction on the country.
Though Sudan’s army has superior resources including air power and an estimated 300,000 troops, the RSF expanded into a force of at least 100,000 troops that had deployed across Khartoum and its neighbouring cities, as well as in other regions, raising the spectre of protracted conflict on top of a long-running economic crisis and existing, large-scale humanitarian needs.
The RSF can draw on support and tribal ties in the western region of Darfur, where it emerged from militias that fought alongside government forces to crush rebels in a brutal war that escalated after 2003.