UK forces explore situation in Sudan as thousands of Britons stranded

LONDON (Reuters) – The UK has a military team in Sudan doing reconnaissance, Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey said, as the government held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss options to help around 4,000 Britons stuck in the North African country.

Countries across the world have been rushing to get their citizens out of Sudan where violent clashes between the army and a paramilitary group called Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have killed hundreds of people and stranded foreigners.

The British government has faced some criticism for being relatively slower to extract Britons from Sudan. Germany, Japan and France have been evacuating their citizens from Sudan.

“I don’t accept that criticism,” Heappey told LBC Radio when asked about it. “I’m very confident in the options that we’re developing.

“There is indeed a military team in the east of the country in Port Sudan doing reconnaissance there so that we can present the Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) all possible options for helping the British nationals who are in Sudan,” Heappey told LBC Radio later on Monday.

British diplomatic staff and their family members have been evacuated from Sudan by the country’s armed forces, Sunak had said on Sunday.

Around 4,000 British nationals are estimated to be in Sudan, Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s minister for Africa, told lawmakers on Monday, adding that the government was holding an emergency response meeting, a so-called COBRA meeting, to decide next steps.

“The situation in Sudan is extremely grave,” Mitchell said. “COBRA is meeting as we speak. It has met six times so far — five times chaired by the prime minister — and that includes one COBRA that we attended at 3.15 am on Saturday.”

(Reporting by Muvija M; editing by Jonathan Oatis)