EXCLUSIVE My mum’s trapped in Sudan and too scared to leave home: Brit reveals her mother has opted to stay in Khartoum rather than risk dangerous journey to evacuation airfield
- Esra Osman said her mother Haram, 58, is trapped in Sudan due to the fighting
- Foreign Office has told Britons to make perilous journey to airfield in Khartoum
A Briton today revealed her mother has made the difficult decision to stay in Sudan rather than risk the perilous journey to an airfield where UK troops are evacuating British civilians.
Esra Osman, 32, said her mother Haram Osman, 58, had been visiting relatives in the city of Kosti, just south of the capital Khartoum, when the fighting erupted last week.
The UK Foreign Office has now urged British passport holders to make the dangerous journey to the Wadi Saeedna airfield outside of Khartoum – where the fighting has been fiercest – without a military escort.
Esra, from Newcastle, said she and her family are terrified by the prospect of Haram travelling to the dangerous city, where she would have to navigate road closures and checkpoints.
Esra, who currently lives in Saudi Arabia, told MailOnline: ‘We are really worried. We are not thinking about putting my mum at harm’s way at all.
‘The journey to get to the airbase is really dangerous. So we are wanting to keep her where she is for now.’
Many fear that the UK government’s late decision to rescue civilians – after initially choosing to only evacuate diplomats – is ‘too little, too late’ for Britons due to how dangerous it is to travel through the various checkpoints to the airfield.
Esra Osman, 32, (pictured left) said her mother, Haram Osman (right with her granddaughter), 58, had been visiting relatives in the city of Kosti, just south of the capital of Khartoum, when the fighting erupted last week
Smoke is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, on Saturday amid fighting in the capital between the Sudanese Army and Rapid Support Forces
Around 1,400 British military personnel are involved in the ‘large-scale’ evacuation of UK nationals from Sudan. Pictured: British soldiers at the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus prepare to board a plane to evacuate UK civilians from Sudan
‘We’ve heard from people who have travelled from Kosti to Khartoum that there are a number of checkpoints and cars where people have been shot at,’ Esra said. ‘It’s so dangerous.’
She added that even if her mother decided to travel to Khartoum, taxi drivers have said no amount of money would convince them to drive to the capital.
‘A taxi driver has told my mother that even if she gives him a million Sudanese pounds (£1,400), there is no way [they] will go to Khartoum,’ Esra says.
Fighting has erupted across Khartoum 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.
‘I feel extremely frustrated,’ Esra said. ‘I feel disappointed about how two generals who are in charge could let this happen to the people they are saying they are trying to help.
Esra says she is angry that the UK government decided to evacuate diplomats over the weekend – rather than helping civilians as other nations had done.
‘With regards to the British response, it was horrible to hear that nations like Saudi Arabia and France helped their civilians and people from other nationalities to evacuate, when the UK government didn’t.’
‘I feel like my mother and other British nationals don’t matter to the government. They’ve come in and taken everyone who is important to them,’ Esra said of the government’s decision to only evacuate diplomats over the weekend.
The UK military is now in a race against time to evacuate all 4,000 British civilians still trapped in Sudan while the fragile 72-hour ceasefire holds.
Today, the first RAF plane carrying British civilians left Sudan and landed in Cyprus.
The C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, capable of carrying around 100 passengers, evacuated British citizens who had made the dangerous journey to the Wadi Saeedna airfield outside the capital of Khartoum this morning.
British soldiers deployed to Cyprus board the C-130 Hercules aircraft bound for Sudan
Pictured: Around 400 Germans and nationals from more than 20 countries, including UK citizens, are evacuated in a flight from Khartoum
The British civilians landed at the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus this afternoon as part of the evacuation operation involving 1,400 military personnel.
READ MORE: WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SUDAN? OUR Q&A EXPLAINS ALL
In a sign of how desperate the situation has become, the Foreign Office backtracked on their earlier advice and urged all British passport holders and their immediate family members to make the perilous journey to the airfield to board evacuation flights.
But there are fears that many Britons – like Haram – will decide not to travel to the airfield after US Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said those UK nationals trapped in Sudan must ‘make their own way’ across Khartoum without a military escort.
Haram had travelled to Sudan alone to visit her mother and was due to leave on an Emirates flight to the UK on April 19 when the violence broke out. Her flight was cancelled due to the violence.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak authorised the rescue operation of British civilians on Monday night, Downing Street said, after he was accused of ‘abandoning’ them.
The Government had decided to only airlift British diplomats and their families from Sudan over the weekend.
Sir Nicholas Kay, a former British ambassador to Sudan, warned the situation during the ceasefire remains ‘precarious’ and at any moment the fighting between the warring military factions could start again – thwarting any plans for a safe evacuation.
Mr Cleverly admitted that it is ‘impossible’ to know how long the window of opportunity for safe evacuations will last.
The sound of heavy gunfire and explosions filled the air in the capital of Khartoum and residents said warplanes were flying overhead.
Sir Kay warned that moving around Khartoum could be ‘very difficult’, with the bridges crossing the Blue and White Nile rivers being controlled by the armed groups, while Conservative MP Alice Kearns said it is now ‘a race against time’ to get Britons out of Sudan.
Some Britons said they have already lost hope in the Government after the Foreign Office decided to only evacuate diplomats. They are now making the perilous journey to Port Sudan to try and evacuate by sea.
The Foreign Office said priority will be given to family groups with children, the elderly and individuals with medical conditions.
It initially said British nationals should not make their way to the airfield unless they are called, and warned the situation remained volatile.
But this advice was removed this afternoon, and the Foreign Office urged British passport holders and their immediate family members to head to Wadi Saeedna airfield to the north of Khartoum to board evacuation flights.
Evacuees from war-torn Sudan sit inside a military plane as they wait to be processed by members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) upon their arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday
Sudanese civilians greet army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on April 16
Other exit routes are being considered, with two UK Navy vessels having been prepared for a possible evacuation.
Mr Cleverly said he had made contact with the leaders of the rival military factions in Sudan, calling on them to allow British nationals and dual nationals to be evacuated safely.
But he admitted it was impossible to predict how long the window for the evacuation would remain open.
‘It is important to remember that ceasefires have been announced and have fallen apart in the past, so the situation remains dangerous, volatile and unpredictable,’ he said.
He added: ‘We have said that we are unable to provide escorts from where British nationals are to the airhead, they will have to make their own way there – as indeed has been the case for the nationals of other countries.’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid tribute to Britain’s armed forces, diplomats and others involved in what he called a ‘complex operation’.
‘The UK will continue to work to end the bloodshed in Sudan and support a democratic government,’ he added.
It comes as the first RAF military transport aircraft took off from the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus and is heading towards Sudan to rescue those trapped in the war-torn country.
The plan involves similar aircraft to those used to rescue diplomats from Sudan – A400M and C-130 Hercules transport planes.
There are believed to be around 4,000 British passport holders – which means that scores of RAF planes are required to land in Sudan or multiple waves of flights in order to evacuate them all.
But Ash Alexander Cooper, former joint operational commander in the British Armed Forces, said the window of opportunity to evacuate trapped Britons is ‘really small’.
Five British nationals were evacuated by Saudi Arabia on a Royal Saudi Navy vessel. Pictured: British Consul-General in Saudi Arabia, Cecille El Beleidi, meets with British citizens in Jeddah
Mr Cooper warned that while news of a 72-hour ceasefire is welcome, the last ten days of intense fighting ‘shows it might not hold for long’. He also said news of the ceasefire may not have reached junior commanders.
Mr Cooper told Sky News: ‘Air, clearly, is the fastest way out but the capacity on planes or helicopters is more limited.
‘Land would be the fastest way to get people out if the window is really small but clearly that is quite dangerous, especially if news of the ceasefire hasn’t filtered all the way down to the most junior commanders on the ground.
‘At the highest level, if the commanders have agreed one thing that’s great – but as we understand communication is particularly difficult in country now, so the risk to life is still very high.
‘It is a risk calculus not just for those on the ground, but also for the British Government.’
Mr Cleverly announced the evacuation would begin today after the Government faced criticism over its decision to only evacuate diplomats and their families – while scores of other nations have managed to evacuate hundreds of civilians.
Five Britons were among civilians who were evacuated from Sudan aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel last night – but efforts are now focused on saving the thousands more UK nationals who are trapped there.
The Foreign Office said other exit routes are being considered, with two British military ships – RFA Cardigan Bay and HMS Lancaster – being lined up for possible evacuations.
Last night, British troops landed in Port Sudan, a fairly stable city in the northeast of the country, on a scouting mission to rescue UK civilians caught up in the conflict.
France, Germany and Saudi Arabia have each carried out hundreds of evacuations, including some Britons.
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