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RAF planes arrive in Khartoum for large-scale evacuation of British nationals

Smoke billows over Sudan's capital Khartoum from an explosion following intense fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary
Smoke billows over Sudan's capital Khartoum from an explosion following intense fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AFP
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Warring sides in Sudan have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the midst of ongoing evacuations from a conflict-stricken region. However, it remains unclear whether the truce will hold as clashes have continued after previously called ceasefires.

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A Royal Air Force plane has landed in a military airfield north of Sudan's capital Khartoum as part of a UK mission to evacuate British passport holders en-masse from the conflict-stricken country.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly made the announcement on Tuesday that it would fly British nationals back to the UK.

Diplomats and embassy employees were already flown out of Sudan on Sunday.

The decision falls in line with other countries pulling their citizens from the region that has descended into chaos following 10 days of deadly fighting between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary.  

In the hopes of establishing dialogue, a US-brokered ceasefire announced by the head of US diplomacy went into effect at midnight Tuesday.

An upheld truce between the two warring sides however remains tenuous, as previous ceasefires have not been honoured.

"After intense negotiations over the past 48 hours, the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire beginning at midnight on April 24 (2200 GMT Monday), which is expected to last 72 hours," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday.

The RSF confirmed the announcement and maintained it would be a "truce dedicated to the opening of humanitarian corridors and to facilitate civilian movement".

The UN had earlier Monday called for a halt to the fighting to: "keep Sudan off the precipice. And while the two sides had already announced that they would accept breaks in the fighting for several days, each time they accused the other of breaking the truce".

This time, "during this period, the United States expects the army and the RSF to fully and immediately respect the ceasefire", warned Mr Blinken.

Explosions, air raids and gunfire have not ceased since April 15 in Khartoum, forcing thousands of inhabitants in the capital to exit. Those who cannot flee are trying to survive, deprived of water and electricity, subject to food shortages and internet and telephone cuts.

The fighting has already left more than 420 people dead and 3,700 injured, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The violence in the east African country, one of the world's poorest, risks "engulfing the entire region and beyond", warned UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

EU Member States begin evacuations

More than 1,000 European Union nationals have been evacuated in a "complex operation", EU chief Josep Borrell announced on Monday.

In addition to the EU, which has its own delegation in Khartoum, seven Member States (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and the Czech Republic) are represented in the Sudanese capital. Some 1,500 Europeans were living in the country before the conflict, according to a European official.

In Italy, the first of two aircraft fleeing Khartoum arrived at Ciampino Military Airport in Rome on Monday. The second is expected late Tuesday evening. According to RAI, both flights carry 96 passengers in total, 83 Italians and 13 foreigners – including Sudanese and Greek citizens.

France has evacuated nearly 400 of its citizens and others of multiple nationalities, operating several air rotations between Khartoum and Djibouti since Sunday. Paris has announced the closure of its embassy.

Germany had evacuated 300 people on three flights on Sunday, to be followed by a fourth on Monday evening, bringing the total to 400, according to Defence Minister Boris Pistorius.

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Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the first three flights were carrying German nationals but also "people from Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Jordan and several African countries, among others".

The situation is worsening

Sudanese nationals have already fled to Egypt and South Sudan. Among them, women and children are now crossing in the other direction, according to the UN. More than 20,000 Sudanese have taken refuge in Chad, which borders Darfur.

Sudan was ravaged in the 2000s by a war ordered by the dictator Omar al-Bashir, deposed in 2019, and led in particular by the Janjaweed militia, from which the RSF originated.

The war had been brewing for weeks between the two rival generals, who had joined forces to oust civilians from power in the 2021 putsch that ended the democratic transition. Both sides were unable to agree on the integration of the RSF into the regular troops, leading to the current conflict.

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